Most of us (especially parents) know what to do if our clothes catch fire: STOP, DROP, and ROLL. But do we know what to do if our relationship catches fire?
Our relationship may function smoothly and harmoniously most of the time. But when a conflict does arise, we may find out that we just don’t know how to resolve it. Many times, the problem lies in our lack of communication skills.
We all want to feel heard and understood. If we don’t know how to establish real connection through effective communication in our love relationship, we may find ourselves competing within the relationship for our needs to be met.
Truly listening to each other is the essence of being in a relationship.
Listening to understand, not just to get our own point across. And if you think about it for a moment, if we’re not interested in who our partner is, what they think, feel, experience, and believe, why are we in the relationship with them? This can be a tough question, but it cuts to the heart of why relationships fall apart: we forget why we are with our partner in the first place.
Seeking to understand our partner is essential. At the same time, we need to be true to ourselves, too. And few people have mastered the ability to stay present to their feelings, understand the disturbance of their emotions, and know what they need when they are in the middle of a conflict. It's imperative that we use both our hearts and our head to build strong bridges of communication with ourselves and our partner.
However, our default is often to try to treat our partner as we would like to be treated in a conflict. But people are all different, so we have different ways of feeling heard and loved. Your partner may want you to be quiet and listen—or to engage with them. Your partner may want you to simply respect their perspective—or give them empathy and understanding. And on it goes. Ask your partner (if you don’t know) how they want to be treated when things get tense. The golden rule doesn’t always pan out in marital conflict.
How to Communicate with a Partner about Your Needs
Any attempt in resolving family conflict asks us to resolve internal conflict within ourselves first. Therefore, it helps to get in touch with your emotions and calm yourself before you try to communicate. Take a break and get clear. When you are triggered and upset, true connection and communication are often already derailed. We need to be ready to communicate lovingly and express strong emotions in a respectful way.
Though it is common and sometimes easier to avoid conflict or to allow conflicts to create relationship issues, it is conflict resolution that promotes understanding, And understanding paves the way to successful communication and greater emotional intimacy. Learning to effectively convey our needs to our partner is vital in building a healthy relationship, yet it is far less likely when one or both of you are upset. So take time to self-calm and get in touch with what you need.
It can feel complicated to work through conflict in any relationship—even with ourselves! So, in the spirit of keeping it simple, let’s go back to stop, drop, and roll. If we can remember how to apply and practice a skill, it's much more likely we'll succeed.
Steps for Effective Communication during Conflict
STEP #1: STOP trying to get your point across.
Really, does this ever work? If your partner agreed with the point you are making, you wouldn’t be having a conflict in the first place. And if you’re both trying to get a point across, it’s unlikely that any real communication is taking place.
STEP #2: DROP your defenses.
Let’s be honest here. Almost everyone is guilty at times of defending themselves. However, if this becomes a habit and we are only trying to make ourselves heard rather than listening to our partner, it can spell the demise of closeness. Watch yourself for these common defenses:
- minimizing your partner’s feelings or perspective
- blocking and arguing
- using zingers or sarcasm
- interrupting and talking over your partner
- attempting to fix or solve something without being asked
- preparing a comeback in your mind so as to not be caught off guard
STEP #3: ROLL into a safer experience of each other by asking open-ending questions.
Get curious about what your partner is experiencing. Encourage dialogue by showing them that you value their perspective. A little genuine interest in your partner can go a long way.
Related reading: "Relationship Tips: How to Handle Differences for a Successful Relationship."
Love Is a Choice!
Our love relationships color our world for better or for worse. The quality of our meaningful connections and time together is largely what creates the quality of our lives. There are entire universes within each one of us. So let’s enjoy the journey with each other and remember that love is a choice each and every moment.
And it’s so much more fun and exciting than a lot of smoke and a stalemate!
To get support and learn more about emotional intelligence and healthy relationship tips, contact us. Heartmanity is here to help you become your best self and create thriving relationships!