It may come as no surprise that the most common dispute amongst couples boils down to communication – or is it just a lack of listening?

Using words to communicate our needs and wants is something we’ve been practicing since the ripe age of two. So why do so many couples find that an inability to effectively communicate with each other leads to unhappiness in their relationship—many times eventually leading to divorce? The unfortunate fact is we are never taught to listen with compassion or with an intent to truly understand the other better. So often, our conversations are led by egos, which result in the desire to win and every word received can feel like a personal attack.

It’s not just arguments. Some of the other most common reasons couples feel there is a lack of communication relate to not being heard…

  • We Drown Out Voices
    • After spending years with someone their voice can start to sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown; many of us will admit to this. We take for granted things the things that have lost their “newness.”
  • We Don’t Speak Our Truth
    • Discussing important topics and speaking from the heart can be downright exhausting. Instead, many of us choose to sweep the things that irk us under the rug, leading to pent up resentment. 
  • We Lack Effective Communication Skills
    • A lack of know-how or what healthy verbal relationship communication even sounds like keep us from articulating in a way that creates effective change.  We can’t find the skills or time to relay important messages and we become weary and defensive when our partners feel attacked and/or annoyed.

Using the Conversation Block™ method and instructions, we’ve put together some illustrations of what ineffective and effective communication skills result in—to help users understand how taking a conscious approach to the way we communicate will help resolve issues and create real connection.

Example: Not Being on the Same Page about Scheduling

Ineffective Communication: Sweeping Issues Under the Rug

Person 1: “How was your day?”

Person 2: “It was fine, you?”

Person 1: “It was busy! There is a lot going on- as a reminder I need you to bring the kids to the dentist tomorrow. There is a conflict in my schedule and I’m relying on you.”

Person 2: (silence)

Person 1: “Did you hear what I just said?”

Person 2: “What?!”

Person 1: “Never mind you don’t listen, I’ll handle it.”

As person 1 storms away, they can’t help but wonder if they should have repeated themselves. The last time they tried, the conversation went nowhere. Person 2 is then left wondering why they feel they’re never enough; even while working overtime to afford a family get-away.

Effective Communication: Reduce Misunderstandings and Improve Active Full Listening Skills

Step 1: Get Set Up

Your objective will be to find a time that both you and your partner can set all other obligations aside and focus on the problem at hand. 

Step 2: Get in the Right Frame of Mind

Draw two white cards that speak to you and one white card that is a challenge for you. Take turns explaining to your partner why you chose those three cards. Next take turns explaining your perspective on the chosen issue.

Person 1:“I chose the card ‘breathe’ because the fact that I feel you don’t listen to me causes me to be extremely annoyed, and I want to feel more grounded. I chose ‘stay in the present moment’ because I want to find a solution here and now. And I picked ‘laugh at yourself’ because I believe it is one of the key traits we share that makes this relationship work, but I tend to be a serious person when it comes to disagreements so that’s harder for me.

Person 2: “I chose ‘find courage’ because I typically avoid this topic instead of explaining my reasoning. I picked ‘express tenderness’ because I want you to know I really do care. I chose ‘discover something new about each other’ because I want to understand how you feel but we’ve known each other for so long I sometimes go on autopilot.

Person 1: “I feel like I have to repeat little things over and over again, and you zone out what I say. We’re not on the same page when it comes to planning our schedules.”

Person 2: “For me, I think it’s more often the case that you are speaking to me when I am busy with something else or my mind is trying to solve an important problem regarding my work.”

Step 3: Find Common Ground

Identify at least one point you both agree on.

Person 1: “I know you want to be attentive, but it feels like you’re having trouble being present with me. Is there something going on for you?”

Person 2: “I agree. Right now, there is a lot at work that needs to be taken care of and it’s taking a toll on my stress and focus abilities. I wish you could see that. I would like to feel supported when it comes to work obligations.”

Step 4: Bridge Differences

On points where you disagree ask each other why you feel or believe that.

Person 1: “I do support how hard you work. Why do you feel that I don’t? What would help you feel more supported so that you are able to give me more of your attention when we are together?”

Person 2: “Thank you. I know I can overwork myself when I’m not prioritizing all aspects of my life. I do need your help in staying attentive to my surroundings and in understanding when work has to be taken home.”

Step 5: Talk About What’s Left Unsaid

Talk about topics that have been overlooked or avoided.

Person 1: “I was taking it more personally than I should have. I sometimes feel like I’ve lost my ability to catch your attention and it hurts.  I want to be included in what you are doing at work.”

Person 2: “I never want you to feel like you are being taken for granted. You are my first priority. Right now, my attention may be divided due to demands at work, but that doesn’t mean I’ve taken you for granted.  I’d be happy to show you what I’ve been working on so you can feel more included.”

Step 6: Make A Plan

Identify what each of you have learned and identify a few behaviors to change in the upcoming weeks. Write them down on a small notebook and use them to track progress in a few weeks.

Action Plan:

  • Help each other be grounded in the present moment by cutting out distractions
  • Carve out time, if necessary, to give each other undivided attention
    • Plan at least 30 minutes every day to discuss what you’ve been working on, reading or at a minimum watch a show together
  • Share your state of mind whether at the office or at home
    • I’ve had a stressful day and still have a presentation to finalize. Do you mind if we connect before bed?”
  • Show attentiveness and appreciation. Even in little ways.

Listening and Communicating with Conscious Intent

There is always more to learn about your partner as well as new experiences to be had. Don’t hold in feelings because you are afraid of upsetting each other or don’t want to come off as a nuisance.

Communication is the most powerful, (yet untapped) human tool we possess. With practice and intention, we can start using our words to evolve our relationships and give us the connection and fulfilment we long for. 

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