We recently sent out a survey to collect new insight about the kinds of habits, relationship arguments and communication tactics couples typically find themselves using, along with the things people would like more of from their partners.
While an anonymous survey may grant participants the permission to write freely about their feelings and the status of their relationships, let’s face it, it can still be challenging to fully assess your own true satisfaction.
To do so, there are a few questions we must ask ourselves with absolute sincerity. First off, how are we actually showing up in our relationship? Have we stopped striving or gotten lackadaisical about building a better connection with our partner? Could we gain more clarity on the subjects that keep us up at night? And what other, more effective ways could you ask for that—for yourself and as a couple?! How do you feel about conflicts—do you see them as a way to get to know yourself and your partner better? Or do you see them as a failure of sort? How willing are you to talk about what’s bothering you—especially if it triggers something inside that’s not particularly flattering? These are important questions that Conversation Block™ helps users address.
Other important, introspective questions might be related to what it is you find yourself in conflict about with your partner. What do we define as an argument vs. an opposing discussion? What subjects are you comfortable speaking up about and which ones would you rather avoid confrontation?
Sometimes it’s helpful to keep in mind that we are not alone in our relationship struggles or our inability to clearly communication within our relationships. In our survey, the #1 topic that couples said they argue about is not listening to each other. Money, the amount of time spent together, family issues, housework and sex are the next most frequently cited topics of argument. Other themes that surfaced included pursuing personal or professional goals while balancing being in a relationship, misunderstandings or miscommunication, showing appreciation, socializing, pets, and food as topics of arguments.
What We’ve Been Taught vs. What Could Be
Most of us spent at least 18 years in a school system (developing our first non-family relationships) where teaching mindfulness is practically absent. However, with a rise in mental health concerns over the past 10 years, including mental awareness in academia is starting to become more of the norm.
Often the trouble is that the volume in our head is turned up way too loud. We’re not taught to listen to other’s words—as well as their energy, body language, facial expression, tone and tenor—with the sole intention of empathizing with how they feel. Instead, the voice in our head tends to make quick judgements, thinking about what to say next, defending ourselves, armoring up, or wanting to win, amongst a myriad of other things. We are taught that each individual is separate, so we don’t ask ourselves (or the other) where they are coming from…what makes them think like that? Especially as relationships gain longevity, we drop our sense of curiosity toward the other. And when it comes to opposing views, it can feel like letting the other have their way is to “lose”.
Unfortunately, the poor tactics fall back on keep us running in a pointless and tiresome loop. When we’re left without effective conflict resolution skills, we end up repeating patterns that keep us from finding an outcome that isn’t so difficult to achieve. In our survey, while participants often reported that they don’t often use inappropriate tactics in their relationship communications, they do admit to falling into that trap on occasion, including:
- Redirecting the conversation
- Avoiding the real problem and inflating smaller issues
- Sweeping issues under the rug
- Hanging it over their partner’s head
- Blaming their partner
- Using the silent treatment
- Yelling or screaming
- Arguing in front of others to get sympathy
- Leaving or walking away (and not returning later to resolve it)
- Downplaying the importance of an issue
Respondents realized that while some tactics may not be very constructive, being honest about the different ways they manage to get over rough patches in relationships is valuable. They reported balancing counterproductive habits with healthier options including talking to a friend, family member or therapist, using humor, reframing the situation or viewing it from a different perspective, focusing on the good, and finding some common ground where they could agree with their partner.
Starting Anew Kind of Relationship
Conflict resolution isn’t rocket science, but it is a learned, practiced skill. Hyped-up and uncontrolled emotions, crappy advice from friends and fear (a huge causal factor of many relationship issues), can all cause us to feel like effective communicating just isn’t worth the hassle and the best resolution is to just let it go. That works only if letting go isn’t a cover for holding it inside.
Professional therapeutic techniques that include communication analysis, narrative therapy, and threads of the Gottman approach are embedded into Conversation Block™ to help couples learn and enhance their relationship communication skills. That was the entire genesis and purpose for which Conversation Block™ was first created. So, couples could start to answer for themselves—what could their relationships really be and become?
Based on our survey results, there is a real need here. The data clearly shows that relationship communication skill-building is needed—to not only counteract ineffective, learned, habitual patterns that get us nowhere, but also to open us up to great possibilities, deeper connection and growth. In fact, the top ten skills couples wish to learn and improve:
- Creating deeper connections
- Making reasonable clear requests
- Transforming blocked conversations into the seeds of closeness and intimacy
- Reducing Misunderstandings
- Improving active full listening skills
- Building harmony by finding common ground
- Changing the narrative—recognizing what is real versus the story in your head
- Reducing judgements and replacing it with observations
- Surface hidden, underlying issues and assumptions so they can be addressed
- Using heads-up warnings to prepare your partner and prevent armoring-up or defensiveness
In our next several weekly blogs, we will address each of these skills one at a time. Using specific conversation topics, we’ll demonstrate how the proprietary card sets and handmade block in each Communication Block™ package can improve listening, communication, connection, and fulfillment for couples who are ready to grow together.