Communication, or the lack of thereof, can cripple an otherwise healthy relationship. Previously, I’ve given you ideas on how to communicate more effectively on a daily basis. These are important and effective tools; yet, if we’re being honest, they are easy to lose sight of when we’re emotional, stressed or tired. In those moments, try to focus on these four important keys of communicating.

  1. I” not “You”

When we’re angry, we may fall into using statements that start with “You” and include a bit of finger pointing behind them. Such statements will immediately shut down the dialogue. Your spouse will likely jump into defense mode and start lashing back. Next time, try this: start your statements with “I” and follow it with an explanation of how you’re feeling. “I am feeling overwhelmed, and was hoping to discuss it with you …”

  1. Understand why before lashing out

Are you really angry that your spouse didn’t take the garbage out (again) this morning? It’s more likely that the garbage is just a symptom of something else. Maybe you’re feeling like it’s only you who sees the chores that need to be done. Focus on what’s really bugging you. “I’m feeling overwhelmed. I feel like no one else sees all the work that has to be done and it’s left on me to do it or nag others to. I don’t like being a nag.”

  1. Listen even better than you speak

When we’re angry or hurt, it can be easy to become myopic in our view of the situation. We forget that even our own stories have more than one side to it. Give voice to your feelings and then be silent. Let your spouse share theirs. Don’t just give air time, really listen with an empathetic ear.

  1. Seek resolution

Remember that the goal of this discussion is not to fling angry, hurtful words at one another. It’s not to cast blame. It’s to state a problem or concern and find a solution. Tell your spouse what you’re looking for, and be open to hearing what your spouse is seeking from you. Work together to reach a solution you can both be happy with – or at least, one you can both live with.

Challenge: This week focus on how you communicate. What can you do differently in the future?

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