I Don't Want to Argue Anymore! Dealing With Relationship Conflict
Communicating Effectively With a Loved One
Stop arguing, stop fighting, and start communicating.
Every relationship will have its issues, there's no avoiding that. The difference between minor relationship issues and major relationship issues ultimately comes down to being able to effectively communicate or not.
It's human nature to want to be heard, to be understood. Many times, no matter how hard we try, we simply cannot find a way to help the other person understand what we're saying.
In this article, I will provide some effective communication tips. This article only covers a few of the basic and most effective communication tips, there are a million ways to communicate effectively. Learn all that you can, discover what works best for you, then put it into practice—every day.
Tip #1: Listen With the Intent of Understanding
- Be attentive: Concentrate on understanding what's being said. Listen for keywords and phrases that imply meaning, focusing on important information such as names, dates, events, and descriptions. When involved in an argument or another heated discussion, listen for indicators of how the other person feels, as well as understanding their viewpoint.
- Be impartial: For now, you're focusing on trying to understand the other person's opinion. It's human nature to formulate an opposing argument during this time, but in doing so we are more likely to miss the important opinions the other party is discussing. Before forming your own opinion, try to understand events from the other person's viewpoint—in other words, put yourself in their shoes. Many times, especially in heated debates, we are so concerned with proving our own viewpoints that we neglect to understand what the other is saying.
- Reflect back on what was said: Wait until the other person has stopped speaking, and then repeat to them what you think they said. This serves a dual purpose. First, it relates to the other person that you were paying attention, and are trying to genuinely understand. Second, it strengthens your own understanding of what was said. When you reflect back to the speaker, you are showing that you care about them and about what they have to say.
- Summarize: Once you have a firm understanding of the other person's viewpoint, summarize that understanding in a sentence or two. This is generally the same as reflecting back but on a much broader scale. At this point, you should have weeded out the things that aren't important to the discussion. You should have a good understanding of what the central issue is, and you should be able to vocalize the issue in just a few short words.
Listening is a skill that takes practice to master. It's easy to hear what another person is saying, but that's the easy part. Most of the time, people speak through their own experiences, so to understand the true meaning of what they say, you must be able to mentally place yourself inside their experiences. By doing that, you will start to gain understanding into why they say what they say, or why they do the things they do.
Tip #2: Pay Attention to Your Body Language and Nonverbal Messages
- Posture: Display yourself in a way that shows that you're interested in the conversation. Avoid crossing your arms, putting your hands in your pockets, turning away from the speaker, looking away from the speaker, and things of that nature. That tells the speaker that you're bored with the conversation, and that the person speaking is unworthy of your time or attention. Instead, lean in when the speaker is talking, maintain eye contact, rest your hands where they can be seen, and don't slouch. By doing this, it shows the speaker that you are interested, and that you are open to what they have to say.
- Equal positioning: This term has been around a long time, but it's just a fancy term for imitating another, or playing copycat. When communicating with another, try to imitate their behavior to a small degree. In other words, if the speaker is standing, you stand. If they are sitting, you sit. This helps the speaker feel more comfortable with you, and puts the two of you on equal footing.
- Facial expressions: Much meaning can be taken from facial expressions. If you frown while another person is speaking, they may take that as a strong disapproval of what is being said. If you smile why they are speaking, this will have a positive impact.
Your body language reveals a lot about how you interpret what another is saying. One of the biggest rules to follow when communicating with another is simply to relax and be yourself.
Tips #3: Express Your Thoughts and Feelings
- Be honest: Effective communication cannot take place without trust. Others are more likely to accept what you have to say when you've shown yourself to be open and honest. If something needs to be said, then say it, but watch how you say things. If what you have to say may hurt the other person, find a way to speak your mind where the impact won't be as great, but the meaning will still come across.
- Speak clearly; articulate: The point of communicating effectively is to be able to express thoughts or feelings in a way that the listener can understand. Speak in a firm tone, loud enough to be heard by the other but not so loud that it could be considered as shouting. Articulate your words as you speak, avoiding slurred or mumbled speech.
Tip #4: Communicate Without Being Adversarial
- Express concerns non-judgmentally: When speaking to a loved one, tailor your speech so that they won't have a reason to take offense to the things you say. Refrain from placing blame on anyone, but instead, focus on solving the problem. Clearly state what you believe the underlying issue is, and ask for confirmation. If there is a disagreement as to what the real issue is, then work together to understand what the other feels is the problem. There may be multiple problems to address, so take them one at a time. Once you have reached an agreement on what the issues are, focus on finding a solution instead of placing blame.
- Use "I" statements: Rather than say, "You didn't explain that very well," say, "I didn't understand what you just said. Please explain it again." When you use "you" in a conversation, that immediately puts the listener in defense mode. The goal is to come to an agreement, and not to waste time arguing.
- Be positive: As soon as a conversation begins to become heated, take a step back. Take a moment to gather your thoughts, take a deep breath, and move on. Keep your body language positive, and focus on reaching a resolution. Learn how to use the words, "I'm sorry", and "I understand." These two little phrases can do a lot to quickly calm a heated situation. If things become too intense, don't be afraid to ask for a moment to calm down.
This is probably the most important section to understand. Many relationship problems can be overcome just by communicating in a way that shows the listener that you care.
Learning how to communicate effectively takes a lot of work and a lot of patience, but once you learn how it quickly becomes second nature.
Questions & Answers
© 2010 Eric Standridge