Clearing Up Static in Your Marital Communication
- Monday, October 17, 2005
With the invention of cell phones, our ability to communicate with each other has drastically increased. Whether we’re driving in the car, standing in line at the grocery store, or on vacation in a neighboring state, we are more available to chat than ever. Despite our around-the-clock availability, communication among spouses hasn’t necessarily improved. Couples still struggle with the same old stumbling blocks that have hindered communication with the opposite sex for centuries. We can, however, learn some important lessons in communication skills thanks to our modern cell phone technology.
The next time you feel like you and your spouse are speaking different languages, remember these tips:
1. Move locations.
"Can you hear me now?"
We’ve all had one of those frustratingly fuzzy moments while talking on a cell phone. It makes you wonder why we thought cell phones were such a good idea in the first place! Yet, we almost all instinctively respond by walking around the yard or office to get a clearer reception.
In the same way, to keep communication lines clear from unnecessary static in your marriage, change your position. How? Change how your perspective by putting yourself in your mate’s shoes. Before you download your daily trials and traumas onto your spouse, check in to see how his (or her) day has been. You might wait until a better time to bring up a tough subject if his boss was unhappy with him, if there are interpersonal issues at work, or if he is working on an important project or case. A little empathy goes a long way. If you do have something pressing, then offer to lighten the load with a kind gesture first: bring him a cool glass of ice tea, run her a bath, offer to take the kids to ice cream and give her some space to regroup.
But don’t announce, "I have something I really need to talk to you about" -- then leave. That tactic might actually raise their stress levels and make the entire situation worse! Instead, offer kindness, and when you reenter, reassess his/her stress level. If he or she seems more relaxed then say something like, "Honey, sometime tonight I have something I need to run by you. Can you let me know when it would fit best in your life to have a minute to talk with me?"
You’ll likely get a, "Sure, how about now?" or "How about right after dinner?" Or, "after the kids get to bed." At worst, you may get a "Can it wait until tomorrow?" If it can, then wait.
If it can’t wait, then re-explain: "It really is time-sensitive, and I think it should only take us about 10-20 minutes (give a realistic, optimistic time-frame estimate) to talk about it. Is there something we can skip or something I can help you with so we can get just a few minutes together?" If none of these approaches work, go on to communication solutions 2 and 3.
2. Call Back. Sometimes if a cell line is breaking up, one person will hang up and call back. If you try to communicate and your partner is misunderstanding, getting agitated or upset, then start over by rephrasing. It might sound something like this: "Angel, I can see this is making you upset. That was never my intent (or at least it shouldn’t be!). Let me try to rephrase this." Then do so.
To successfully reword what you’re trying to communicate, look for these possible stumbling blocks and take them out of your conversation:
Accusations: name-calling, labeling, and swear words are all inflammatory to a conversation. Remove them.
Generalizations: The words, always and never are sure to put your mate on the defensive. Watch out for sentences like: "You always say that/do that . . ." or "You never listen, come home on time, care about my feelings, etc."
Never is a very long time, and using this word is a dramatic attempt to push buttons of guilt and shame in your spouse. The results will rarely be positive.
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