Is communication a problem in your relationship?
We all have two ears and one mouth. That really says it all, doesn’t it?
We should be listening twice as much as we speak!
When you master this, your communication will reach a whole other level.
It sounds so simple. And you might think that improving communication couldn't be as easy as just listening more.
But could it?
We all have a desire to be listened to and acknowledged for who we are.
The Consequence of Not Truly Listening
I once read a study, which showed that 80% of all conflicts in a relationship are shaped from communication misunderstandings.
They occur because we don’t listen to what is actually being said, and we don’t ask if we’re unclear about something.
We simply jump to our own conclusions.
When we do this, it’s very easy to put a negative spin on whatever is being said, and suddenly we accidentally see this fabrication as truth.
And there’s the trouble…
All the couples I’ve met and helped have told me that at one point in time their communication failed and it became the root of relationship problems.
Now – couples might be literally fighting all the time (obvious communication issues); or they might actually never fight or have any verbal conflict, but the disagreements are still very much present and they might go through days and days feeling the ‘cold’.
One thing is certain: conflict or communication breakdown of any type isn't something we want in our lives.
Even though communication strategies may not be something you pay much attention to, it’s a good idea to have a few tips up your sleeve that you can use to improve your communication – so you can save your relationship from unnecessary disagreements and misunderstandings.
What Went Wrong?
When you’re in love, you can barely get enough of the other person. You want to know more about them, you ask genuine and curious questions about what the other person is telling you.
The agenda is – “I want to know more about you” and your “in love hormones” are taking over.
Suddenly a few years have passed and you find yourself thinking, “We never talk anymore – only a little bit and only ever about practical stuff.” Or, “If we talk to each other about something we disagree on, it always ends in conflict.”
Conversations slip into being “all about me” and “you need to listen to me and acknowledge me and see me and understand me and ask me questions!”
If you get caught up in… me, me, me, and at the same time your partner also gets caught up in me, me, me – then both of you are fixated on what you personally need, demanding, wanting, and… no one is listening or giving!
How Often Do You Stop & Listen to Your Partner?
How often do you ask them questions, how often are you present and how often do you show interest in what your partner is dealing with in their daily life?
I’m guessing you’re thinking something like: “Not nearly enough…”
It might actually come at the cost of your partner sharing with you at all. They share less and less, because you don't ask, so they don't share, and you start to grow apart.
Plus – let's be honest… who wants to tell their partner with they're experiencing, if what they're sharing might be not listened to, interrupted or rejected, or where the conversation might be taken over by a partner who wants to instead talk all about their own needs?
A rule of thumb is that we need to practice listening twice as much as we speak.
Or … at the very least, we need to be better at listening to what our partner is sharing with us and ensure that we take it all in.
When we're meant to be listening, we’re actually often sitting there thinking about our own agenda and what we’ll say next (waiting to talk!) instead of actually listening.
Or we're so caught up in fear that our partner won’t hear us, we focus on saying what’s on our own mind as quickly and as often as possible, reinforcing our needs, instead of actually listening to our partner.
However, if both parties are displaying this fear-driven or self-focused behavior, no one is really listening…
What you end up with is two people talking and instead of a constructive dialogue, you just have two parallel monologues.
Welcome to the world of relationships! These types of bad habits can wreck havoc in a relationship.
When Our Needs Aren't Met
When our needs aren't met, it’s super easy for us to enter into kindergarten-mode and stomp our feet.
“If I can’t have what I want, then I won’t give you what YOU want!”.
“If you won't listen to me, I won't listen to you”.
This type of behavior can be both conscious but also unconscious.
Needless to say, this isn’t going to fly in the long run.
Of course we can all feel like 4-year-olds every now and then for a short second, but if that FEELING gets acted out in behavior, and that behavior then dominates your relationship, an alarm should be sounding!
The good news is, that turning this sinking ship around is much easier than what you might think.
The interesting thing is that when you start changing your behavior, your partner will notice these positive changes and they’ll join you!
They’ll often automatically mirror your behavior and soon your conversations will flow and you’ll once again feel the security of those lovely first conversations you once had.
Train Yourself to Become a Better Listener
I know that this might sound a bit hippy-dippy for some people and if you’re rolling your eyes right now, I guarantee that you’re not the only one.
But I promise you this: if you decide to become a really great listener, you’ll notice significant changes in how you communicate with your partner and this will bring about improvements to your relationship.
An awesome bonus to being a good listener, is a better understanding of who your partner really is!
Remember, when you’re not actively listening to what your partner is telling you, they’re very likely to feel rejected and let’s face it, that's not leading good places!
- Commit to becoming an good listener – please remember, practice makes perfect. You have to keep flexing that listening-muscle.
- Be quiet when your partner is talking – yes, bite your tongue if you have to! Focus all your energy on what is being said. Be present. Train your focus.
- Wait until your partner has FINISHED talking before you respond. If you are prone to interrupt when someone is speaking, practice not interrupting. TIP – Do this not just in your intimate relationship with your partner, but generally in social settings and at work – the more you practice, the better you become at breaking this habit.
- Ask questions if there’s something you’re unclear about or want to hear more about.
Maj Wismann has worked as a sexologist and couple’s therapist with her own private clinic for more than 10 years. She is one of Denmark’s most renowned experts on relationships and sex life, and her online course “Get your sex drive back” has helped people across the globe get their sex life back on track. Maj Wismann is also the creator of the popular “YearBook for Couples” as well as the e-book “When Sexuality Plays Up”.