We asked Dr. Teesha Morgan, a Vancouver-based sex therapist and couples counsellor, for pointers on how to communicate clearly and effectively to help your relationship be the best that it can be.
1. Timing is everything
Timing has a lot to do with whether or not your communication will be effective. "Don't bring up a touchy subject when your partner is barely in the door from a long day at the office," says Morgan. He won't be in the right headspace to talk things out and might feel like he is being put on the spot.
The same thing goes for when he's otherwise occupied at home -- whether he's watching the game or working on something at his computer. "Choose a time when neither of you is stressed or busy," Morgan suggests. A car ride or a walk outside together are both opportune times to discuss what's on your mind.
2. Cool off
Many of us know that the worst time to discuss something important is when we're angry. Yet in that moment, when emotions get the best of us, it's hard to hold back. Challenge yourself.
"What maturity gives us is our ability to stop ourselves in that moment. Instead of flipping out, give yourself space and let the iron cool," says Morgan. This will allow you to present issues and concerns to your partner in a calm, collected way, and you will be better able to hone in on the real problem. It will also give you time to think about what the real issue is, and to find an appropriate time and way to approach it.
Page 1 of 2 -- Learn how to approach the source of problems in your relationship and understand your mate better with tips on page 2
3. Focus on the "why"
When you unleash frustration on your mate, it often has nothing to do with the specific issue that has just occurred, but rather the same issues occurring time and time again.
Analyze what your real relationship problem is. Are you upset because he didn't call you back when he said he would, or are you actually angry because you felt that he wasn't accessible when you needed him all week, and you feel like you're not a priority? Once you have figured out the real issue, then you can approach him.
"Unless you address the ‘why' behind the incident and make him understand the broader umbrella issue, you'll just be having the same fight over and over again," says Morgan. "If you can focus on why you're upset, it will allow him to see things more clearly." Think about the big picture -- not one specific issue.
4. Use "I" statements that focus on how you feel
Don't begin a conversation with an accusatory statement such as "Why didn't you call me back when you said you would?" When you do so you are finger-pointing and blaming your significant other instead of being clear about your concerns. He won't understand why you're making such a fuss over him not calling you this one time.
Morgan suggests using "I" statements instead: "I waited to hear back from you because I didn't want to be a bother, but all week I've felt like you haven't been accessible when I've needed you. I want you to try to be more mindful about not keeping me hanging in the future."
By using an "I" statement and offering a solution, you set yourself up to get a favourable and understanding response from your romantic partner.
5. Don't bury the problem
If you don't tell him you are having issues, he can't work on preventing them from recurring. "Sometimes men just see the specific incident (not calling you back this one time) and don't understand why we get so upset. Women get tagged as emotional beings and men don't understand our actions," says Morgan.
"When you bury your thoughts and feelings for fear of rocking the boat, there eventually comes a breaking point." This breaking point comes as a surprise to him -- since we haven't brought any of these issues up -- and will seem overdramatic. So don't wait until you break.
If you want to communicate effectively, be honest and don't dance around an issue or play games. Everyone can respect honesty and a direct approach, so try to use them wherever possible.
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