"What shall we do for dinner, honey?" Have you ever got into an argument because of such a simple phrase. Your laid back response -"anything" or "whatever is fine" was met with your spouse's frustration. She thinks that you're not sensitive nor caring enough by failing to read her tone of voice saying, "I am tired and do not feel like cooking" "I prefer to eat out tonight" or "Can you cook for me?". The next thing you know, you both are angry and feel hurt by each other.
The anger seems to emerge out of nowhere. You don't see it coming. You don't feel saying anything wrong, but then you are surprised by a sudden expression of disappointment or frustration from your spouse. Shaking your head, bewildered, you wonder thinking "why can't you just say what you actually want and don't make me decoding your puzzle?!"
Communication is a lifeline of relationship. When our communication is having interference, the quality of our relationship with others will also be adversely affected. Misunderstanding, disappointment, and conflict will occur. There could be all kind of factors that interfere with couple's communication. Fear, unresolved hurt, doubt, distrust could hinder us from communicating clearly and openly. Many couples have placed filters in their mind believing "You should be able to read my mind!" "Whatever I say, he/she would not understand me anyway. Thus, why bother saying anything?!" "What if I say something and my spouse would react in anger?!", etc.
By improving your communication, you would improve your relationship. Here's a few practical tips:
#1. SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS CLEARLY - It is better to assume that your partner does NOT know what you are thinking than assuming he/she does and ends up disappointed. Mind-reading is a risky business.
#2. LISTEN CAREFULLY - Listen. Listen. Listen. Hearing does not always mean listening. When we listen well, we pay attention not only to the verbal content, but also the tone, selection of words, the non-verbal (body language), facial expression and how things are said (a hint of reluctance, etc). Remember: Listening well = loving.
#3. WHEN IN DOUBT, ALWAYS CLARIFY - When you are unsure of the intention behind your spouse's "interesting" or "unusual" question, grasp the hint and ask for clarification. For example, "You are asking what should we do for dinner. Normally, you do not ask this question and we would eat at home. Do you have any specific idea?"
Sometimes, it is challenging to work on your couple communication skill on your own when you struggle with communication in the first place. Life Design Counseling could assist you in identifying and understanding your core relational needs and help you in improving your communication skills along the way. Our approach to counseling is more than just offering a mere advice, but also assisting our clients to develop practical skills that they can use for long term. Treasure and protect your relationship by improving your communication.