BY SANDRA GUY
Just as we’re throwing off our masks, we may also find ourselves throwing out the niceties and self-discipline we’ve forced ourselves to assume during the pandemic.
We’ve sacrificed all of the little luxuries, played nice on Zoom calls and held our tongues while supervising the household.
It’s so tempting to release the rage.
But the month of June — dubbed Effective Communications Month — reminds us to hold on. In fact, the first rule of conflict resolution is to stay focused.
It’s tempting to throw everything but the kitchen sink — and sometimes, even the sink — into an argument, dredging up every tidbit of rage, hurt and disappointment you’ve experienced, going back years.
Even a stranger, overhearing you, will express bewilderment that you’d hold onto your anger for so long. Your better self knows the answer: Stay focused on the present, your feelings, understanding one another, and finding a solution. If practicing mindfulness helps, take deep breaths and concentrate on the present.
Listen carefully and actively. Don’t interrupt. Don’t get defensive.
Are you noticing how your partner responds to cues? Stop thinking about your grievances long enough to figure out how to best communicate. Does your partner respond most to hearing and talking? Or to seeing and watching? Or is he or she a doer?
Pay attention if you want to be listened to. All of the eye contact in the world won’t move someone who responds most effectively to your tone of voice.
Try to see the other person’s point of view. If you truly can’t figure it out, ask more questions until you do. This will be especially tough if the other person is criticizing you, but see if you can dispassionately figure out valuable information.
If your newly honed communication skills show that you’re wrong, admit it and apologize. It shows strength, maturity and character.
Use “I” messages. Rather than saying things like, “You really messed up here,” begin statements with “I,” and make them about yourself and your feelings, like, “I feel frustrated when this happens.”
Remember, too, that people want and need certainty — a scarce commodity these past 14 months. So ask yourself: How secure is my partner feeling in our relationship?
Another key human need is to feel unique and important.
How do you demonstrate to your partner, not just tell them, that he or she is significant to you?
Consider what you give to your partner — your time, your undivided attention, the benefit of the doubt?
If none of your efforts makes a dent, ask for help. Couples counseling or family therapy can make a difference. Or find apps, virtual assistants or tech-savvy ways to gamify your communications.
You can both win.
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