“MEN ARE TERRIBLE COMMUNICATORS," she said with frustration, as she sipped her mocha-latte-cappa-whatever from Starbucks. "My husband is the worst! If he could make me feel as warm and comforted as this cup-of-joe, I'd be a happy girl. I don't know why, but he is the worst communicator on the planet. He bottles everything up and won’t talk to me. Men are like this. Terrible communicators!"
"NOT TRUE!" I passionately countered. "You don't know what you're talking about. Let me help ya, sister!"
I’m not buying it - not from the woman who was lost in Starbucks latte-land, not from my clients, and not from any of YOU!!!
Men communicate BEAUTIFULLY and SUCCESSFULLY - when they are ALLOWED to. There is this stigma surrounding men that they aren't proficient communicators in romantic relationships. Oh yeah? What if it's not men? What if... it's the way women are approaching men (with great intentions of course, thinking they're approaching the situation in a healthy way)? But what if it's the woman's approach?
For men to communicate successfully, a few things must be in order and I'm going to tell you what those are. But first let me address YOU - yes, youuuuu, with your whipped-creamed mustache sipping your latte cuppa-whatever you're drinking - YOU who are sitting there thinking, "but MY husband doesn't communicate, can't communicate, or is so communicatively stunted that his lack of emotional intelligence prevents him from accurately describing his thoughts, feelings, and needs."
Yeah, YOU. Sometimes we women don’t communicate effectively so men understand. Do you ever find that when you try to approach a hard conversation / topic, you become MORE worked up and leave that conversation feeling angrier or more hurt than when you started? Take a look at how YOU bring things up. What's your tone of voice? What's your timing like? What is your word choice? Are you bringing this up AGAIN (nagging)? Are you giving constructive criticism AGAIN (being critical)? Maybe it's not your husband that is a poor communicator. Perhaps he doesn't feel SAFE to communicate because of your approach - therefore he's closed up and gets his words jumbled. #foodforthought
Here are a few tips... these are necessary to keep communication open, successful, and pleasant.
Pay attention and be present. Put your phone down, turn the television or music off, and eliminate all distractions. Make eye contact throughout your entire conversation. Watch for non-verbal cues in your spouse's communication. Don't assume your partner's thoughts, feelings, motivation or need. Repeat back what you THINK you heard to be clear that they are saying what they're trying to relay accurately and to be sure you're understanding correctly. Seek to understand their perspective (even if you don't agree with it).
DON'T JUDGE, BLAME, OR ATTACK
Just because you're married, it doesn't mean that your spouse's life is YOURS. We are all on a different path as individuals. We learn, grow and evolve at different rates. This means it's not up to you to judge, blame or attack your spouse. Judging your partner doesn't foster connection, it creates distance. Blaming your partner doesn't foster a desire in them to do or be better, it makes them resent you, and it makes them want to STOP serving you in any way (they'll eventually shut down altogether). Attacking your partner makes them defensive, shut down, and counterattack (now you'll have a full-blown fight on your hands). Remember, you can experience the same situation differently from your spouse - that's called perception. If their perception is different from yours, it doesn't mean it's wrong - it makes it different. It's ok if their experience/perception is different. What's important is that you share your perceptions to foster growth and understanding of each other.
OWN YOUR RESPONSIBILITY 100%
Hold yourself accountable for your vices, bad habits, and when you do or say something that damages the relationship. The breakdown of connection falls on BOTH partners, rarely is it ever just one person's fault. Let go of your need to be right or “win.” This type of competitiveness is for sports, not marriage. Kick pride/ego to the curb and have humility!
DITCH YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Forget how you think your spouse should act or react. Control freaks do this. Allow your spouse the freedom to be who and how they are, and love them as who and how they are. Then and only then do they have the freedom to want to grow or improve in any way. Having expectations sets your spouse up for failure and sets you up for disappointment. Learn to love being surprised so you don't miss out on some of life's greatest treasures. :)
No one is a mind reader, and it's awfully narcissistic to think that your spouse should KNOW what you want or need in any given situation, even after 20 years together. Why? Because we all constantly change. To think your spouse should know your needs and desires all the time is flat out false. So... make direct statements, direct requests, and do so with a warm tone of voice. It saves time, and prevents hurt feelings, disappointment, and arguments.
USE *I* & *WE* STATEMENTS, DROP *YOU* STATEMENTS
*I* statements = (I feel _______, I would like _______, What I heard was _______)
*We* statements = (We can _______, We will _______, Would we benefit from _______)
*You* statements (You always _______, You never _______, You said _______, Why do you _______, You make me ________).
'I' and 'We' statements are better than 'You' statements because they provide clear communication and foster teamwork - they allow your partner to feel calm, curious, and open to what you're saying. "You" statements are disruptive, make people defensive, and usually lead to hurt feelings and arguments.
Yes, the ugly "C word," compromise. That means giving in to what your spouse wants or needs at times. If you want a healthy and successful marriage, you must do this. You can't expect your spouse to cater to you if you never cater to him/her. Find a happy medium, do what they want, and feel good about creating beautiful TEAMWORK.
Remember - everyone experiences their own perception of an event. Neither is right or wrong. Each of you deserves to be honored, loved and respected - and in marriage, it's your responsibility and duty to make your spouse feel these deeply.
Now, back to that cup of loving-latte. . . The perfect cup of warm goodness needs all the right ingredients AND has to be the ideal temperature for you to truly savor it and feel comforted. The same is true for communication in a relationship. All the above 'ingredients' need to be in place for successful communication to occur. If you have all ingredients except one thing (like timing), you can throw off the whole conversation and lose. It takes practice because excellent communication is a skill.
All of these components will foster better communication, deeper connection, understanding, forgiveness, and more passion. It saves time, and prevents unnecessary hurt feelings, disappointment, and arguments.
*Now, about that latte-lover I had a conversation with in Starbucks. . . We went on to have a riveting conversation, she and her husband became clients, and she now says he's the BEST communicator in the world. Fancy that!
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