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3 Communication Mistakes to Avoid

by Voices Wellness 21 Nov 2020

Stop yourself from getting into a communication lockdown with your partner. By VOICES WELLNESS. 

Two of the top 10 reasons that marriages breakdown are a lack of communication and constant arguing, says Shellie R. Warren, a marriage life coach and two-time published author. In a piece she penned for, Warren warns that poor communication is one of the biggest reasons for divorce. And if you feel like you’re having the same argument over again, it’s often because one party feels like they’re not being heard or appreciated.

Whether in a marriage or a relationship, communicating effectively with our partners is couple goals. How do we talk without getting into a cross-fire? Here are three things to pay attention to.  

Do focus on the issue, not the person

It’s easy to go straight to pointing fingers in a fight. According to American communication expert, Preston Ni, ineffective communicators make the issue personal, when it’s the issue that is the problem. For example, saying “You never clean up. You’re a slob!” is ineffective, because it arouses negative reactions. Word it to focus on the issue itself: “I noticed that you didn’t wash the dishes this week.”

Making your partner the focal point of the issue can take away their confidence, hurt their self-esteem and trigger insecurities. All of which leaves them feeling unsafe and inadequate, causing them to lash out from a place of insecurity and resentment. 

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It’s not the person but the problem at hand. Don’t confuse the two. (Photo by Désirée Fawn on Unsplash)

Do use specific examples  

Many of us are guilty of this: Grossly exaggerating how many times our partners did us wrong and end up using superlatives when calling out bad behaviour. Don’t. Using absolutes to communicate our needs is counter-productive, since it only makes our partners feel defensive and attacked.  This closes the opportunity for effective communication. American relationship and life coach, Veronica Grant, suggests avoiding the use of “you never” and “you always” when discussing relationship issues with your partner. A better strategy would be to use more sentences that start with “I” instead of “You”, and to cite specific examples. 

Don’t be passive-aggressive

Being passive-aggressive instead of effectively communicating your feelings can cause strains in the relationship. According to Ralph Ryback, a psychiatrist at Sovereign Health Group, a passive-aggressive communicator uses sarcasm, sends mixed signals or acts like nothing is wrong even if their behavior is exhibiting anger. Even if your partner senses that you’re upset, they cannot begin to find a solution, without the acknowledgement of an issue. It leaves your partner confused and frustrated, and it doesn’t solve anything.

Signe Whitson, who co-authored The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools, and Workplaces, says that using passive-aggressive comments such as, “I’m not mad” and “Fine. Whatever”, expresses anger indirectly. It shuts down direct and emotionally honest communication. Practice being assertive about how you feel. This way, you express your needs head-on, allowing you and your partner to focus on making the situation work.

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