I was at a dinner party and someone asked me if I worked with couples in my practice, being that I do, I said yes. They were fascinated about how I help couples, they remarked how it must be difficult because I had two peoples "stuff" to deal with. With me being a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist I was trained on how to work with couples and families in addition to the individuals in my practice. But that got me thinking, what is some easy steps or tools I can encourage a couple to use to improve their communication. So, how can a couple make sure both partners are being heard equally in a relationship?
I think that having both partners feel heard equally in a relationship is the ultimate goal and when a couple comes to me for counseling.
The reality is that one partner is probably more dominant, thus their communication style may be more dominant too (ie someone who has an aggressive style of communication may have a partner who has a passive style of communication)- guess who's winning the arguments in that relationship? Well, if you guessed the aggressive communicator you are correct. In order to change that dynamic, both parties have to be open to the change. I use the following statements in order to have both parties speak up for themselves:
1. "Let me think about that." It's a simple request but just asking for more time (24 hours, 48 hours or more?) before making a decision is totally acceptable, so your partner should respect your request for that time. Allowing one partner the time and space to process their decision is a great way to show the partners are supportive of one another.
2. I often teach the simple and easy communication skill, the traditional' "I feel_______ when you________ because________." If you and your partner can use this communication skill when things are getting heated great. Keep up the good work. This statement may even catapult you to the ultimate goal of having both partners feel they are being heard in their relationship.
3. "What I hear you saying is...." Another solid communication skill is to use reflective listening skills. Reflective listening looks like partner A talks, partner B does not talk during that time. No talking, no interrupting and no asking questions. Then partner B reflects back to partner A what they heard. I recommend saying, "What I heard you saying is...." Then, to allow for both partners to feel heard, you repeat the process and let partner B talk and partner A listen and partner A reflects back what they heard. The good side of this technique is it allows for both parties to feel heard because when one person is talking the other is listening, the downfall? It may take a while, but if you and your partner are working towards both being heard practice makes perfect!
#gabriellefreiretherapy #couplescounseling #relationshipadvice