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Good Enough Blog | "I Can’t Hear You Over The Screaming!" Post by Dana Maloney about effective communication in relationships
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I Can’t Hear You Over The Screaming! A Post About Effective Communication

A lot of my clients ask me if I have the perfect marriage because I so often talk about effective communication.

My response is always the same, “absolutely not; this crap is hard.  If it wasn’t, everyone would do it.”  None of us are perfect, or have the perfect partnership, but knowing some tools and strategies to communicate can go a long way.

So, I’m going to talk about some fair fighting rules.  That’s right.  The goal is not to avoid fighting, it’s to fight fair.  Think of it like a hockey game.  There are rules about how players can fight. Relationships are like that.

Note: Some of us are what I like to call, “stuffers.”  This is when we don’t take on problems in a relationship as they come up.  We keep stuffing them and ignoring them until we have so much resentment that we burst.  This is one of the reasons we need to confront our partners, and not run away.

So, here are my rules…

5 Rules for Fighting Fair in Relationships

1)  Make sure the problem is the problem.  

Before beginning to discuss, argue, or fight, check in quickly to make sure that the anger or frustration is really about the matter at hand.  As we all know, anger can be displaced.  Which means, it can really be about something entirely different.  Is there something bothering you at work, or are you feeling insecure or tired?  We all have bad days, which can turn into frustrations or fights at home.  The anger becomes misdirected.  So, check in with yourself.  You won’t regret it.

2) Respond, don’t react.  

The difference between responding and reacting is about a millisecond.  A reaction is purely visceral and instinctual.  It can become hurtful and distract from the issues at hand.  Responding, is when we pause to make sure nothing we don’t want to say or do is said or done because many times, we can’t take it back, and we don’t always mean it.

3) No loud voices.  

Pretty self-explanatory.

4) No stonewalling.  

Respect what your partner is talking about by having a response, either verbally or with an expression or gesture.  Shaking and nodding your head, for example, is how humans know they are being heard.  When we stonewall, it can be so difficult for the person talking that he/she could escalate just to feel heard.

5) Use clarifying, feeling statements.  

This is when we don’t accuse or focus on the other person being wrong.  When we do this, the accused person will shut down and won’t even hear.  He/she will put up walls and become defensive.  So, instead of saying something like, “you never pay attention to me,” or, “you think you are better than me,” we need to focus on the feelings and clarify.  We can reframe to, “I feel hurt when you don’t listen because I don’t feel like a priority.”  “I feel inferior when you speak in that tone, and I want to feel like your partner and an equal.”  See what I did there?  When we focus on our own feelings, it is way easier to be heard and understood.  And chances are, our partners will not want for us to feel sad or hurt.

All in all, effective communication is more about getting what WE want than about giving our partners what they want.  In order to be strategic and to get our needs met, we must follow the rules.  If our partners feel criticized, attacked, shamed, condemned, etc., then we will not get what we want.

So, as much as we think that yelling our point is going to make someone really
hear us, let’s lower our voices and play by the rules, so that we don’t get ejected from the game.
effective communication, couples therapy, communication in relationships

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