There I sat, internally annoyed and composing a retort that defended my position on something trivial. So consumed with my inner dialogue, I didn’t hear the message my husband was trying to deliver. Jaw clenched, shoulders tensed, negativity mounting, and then it hit me. Shush. Be still for a minute and listen. I did. At that point, it really wasn’t about the “issue”, but more about how we communicate when there is tension.
Lovers! Here is a tip for a magnificent love life, BE QUIET!
SERIOUSLY, shut up.
Let go of the need to argue every time there is a disagreement. In any relationship there will be issues. Some will be worth fighting for. And that’s the point, some aren’t. It’s perfectly ok to stand on opposite sides of the agreement fence. And let go of the need to be right.
Then, when the “mother-of-mother” fights ensue, and that’s likely, or when you can’t take issues that come up any longer, here’s another tip:
LISTEN: The deep breath, eye to eye listening that softens the heart. Give yourself permission to listen without judgment, without judging yourself or your mate. That’s not easy, but when mastered, is a relief, it restores the life energy that can get sucked dry during any kind of charged topics.
Listen without composing a response. HEAR what your partner is saying. Get into the space of (like St. Francis says) seeking to understand. Grant your partner the dignity of feeling heard. And sometimes, that’s all that’s really needed.
Listen for what’s NOT being said. What are the non-verbal cues telling you? You know the ones, the “cold shoulder”, the deep sighs, the tense facial expressions. Is there ambiguity in the message? If so,
CLARIFY: Abandon interrogation and ask questions from a place of curiosity. Is there understanding at the level needed to move beyond the issue? If not, go deeper. Still not getting it, ask for the essence simplified.
Have the courage to communicate honestly. Insist on being heard. Be truthful, compassionate, and stand firm in your beliefs. Edit words so that the message is received and doesn’t get convoluted in details. That requires knowing the main point and getting to it, the essence simplified, the bottom line. You will appreciate the honesty in your partner, and your partner in you, even if there is no resolution.
A relationship therapist, I am not. My credentials for this advice go beyond my coach training as well.
The advice comes from 32 splendid years of marriage. And practice.
The advice comes from watching successful relationships flourish in good times and in rough times.
The advice is common sense.
And it works!
And for more good relationship mojo, check out this relationship piece in TIME