Lately, I’ve been coaching a lot of couples and noticing some of the nasty communication habits people often fall into. To help you talk to your partner (or really anyone else) in a better way, here are some things to keep in mind.

1) Ask for what you want. Even though we’re usually more aware of what we don’t want, talking about what we do want is way more positive and much more likely to get a better response. So, instead of saying, “I don’t want you to shout at me,” say, “Will you talk to me in a quiet and calm voice?”

2) Be specific. We are all guilty of saying generalities, but really, they cause tremendous confusion because what you mean by a general statement like ‘being considerate’ may be entirely different than what someone else may mean. If you’re staring at the side of a pencil, it’s going to look long and narrow, but if you move 45 degrees so you’re staring at the lead end, it will look like a pinpoint. Perspective is everything. Being specific goes a long way to solve issues of perspective. People can argue forever about what being considerate is, but no can argue with a specific request like, “Could you clear the table and do the dishes every night without me asking?” That’s way more likely to get you what you want than, “Could you help with clean up?”

3) Talk only about the present. It’s SO tempting I know, but really, leave the past behind. Even if your friend, partner, boss has not asked your opinion about something important on the last 5 occasions, still don’t mention it. “Would you like to hear my perspective now?” is an arrow pointing at the bull’s eye of now.

4) Ask for clarity. Don’t be afraid to ask for more details. For example, if someone says, “Do you want to go running together?”, wouldn’t it be wise to find out how far, how fast and when before you give any indication as to whether you’d like to do this?

5) Expect differences. People are always telling me how awful it is that they differ so much with their partner. But to me, differences are to be expected. After all, each of us is unique and sees things in our own inimitable way. And why not? To me, the problem isn’t the number of conflicts or severity of them, it’s how respectful we are in honouring them.

If we can truly respect what’s right for someone else, even if it’s the opposite of what’s right for us, we can create a win-win. Then the problem’s solved. Most of the difficulties that occur around differences is one person trying to convince the other to see things their way or to do it their way. But why should they?

I remember taking a course in University on Family Conflict. The professor told us something that shocked me. He said that healthy families have LOTS of conflict and that it’s the unhealthy families that don’t. The unhealthy ones (like the family I came from) never argued because they weren’t strong enough to handle it. I can now see the truth in this.

6) Avoid ‘right’ or ‘wrong. Really, there is no right or wrong, only one person’s perspective versus another person’s perspective. Using phrases like, “From my point of view,” will help you remember that. Or asking the other person for their point of view will also support this idea of perspective and each person’s right to have a different one.

7) Recognize triggers from the past. It’s all well and good to have preferences, but if you find yourself having a great deal of intensity about something, it’s probably a trigger from some unresolved thing in the past. Susan, for example became incensed when her husband wouldn’t make time to help her with something. Sure, anyone would want their partner’s help and not be pleased if they didn’t get it, but her strong reaction cued her that she had unresolved feelings from her past. (Her dad never helped her with things when she was young.) Once she recognized this, she was able to negotiate her need for help from her husband in a more charge neutral way.

There are many others I could mention, but these communication tips will make your interactions with your partner clearer and cleaner. Try them out.

Author's Bio: 

My passion is to help professionals who are tired to letting their personal problems and limitations stop them from having a deeply fulfilling life.

Over my 25 years of coaching, people use me most often to: cope with stress, handle a cheating spouse or troubled relationship, learn techniques for anxiety or to control anger, become skilled at conflict resolution and learn how to listen and respond to themselves on a deep level.

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