Many people believe that the No. 1 secret to maintaining
a healthy relationship is having good communication skills.
If you're in an intimate relationship and feel that you could
improve in this area, here are some ways to keep the communication
- and the relationship - flowing.
It's a Guy Thing - Or Is It?
It's important to understand that communication challenges
in male-female relationships stem from the different ways
in which men's and women's brains are wired. "Men compartmentalize
their feelings, but women remember everything," says
Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Women's Bodies, Women's
Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause. "So when women bring
up issues in a relationship, they tend to bring up everything
that is related," she adds, noting that this is a big
mistake. That's because most men find this approach overwhelming,
or view "hashing over everything" as a character
According to Dr. Northrup, the most important communication
skill for women to learn is that you cannot expect your mate
to be your best friend. Save the long-winded moaning sessions
for your girlfriends.
Laurie Moore, Ph.D., author of Creative Intimacy and Choosing
a Life Mate Wisely, advises people to choose a partner with
whom they have enough in common. "You need some foundation
from which communication can flow well from the beginning,"
says Dr Moore, who is a psychotherapist and a licensed marriage
family therapist. When communication styles are vastly different,
couples often spend more time learning how to communicate
than actually communicating. Dr. Moore compares this to being
from two different countries and not speaking the same language.
Communicating for Your Health
You know the old adage: "I just need to get it off my
chest." Well, "there is a seamless connection between
relationships and health," says Dr. Northrup, who notes
that studies show that people in loving, supported relationships
generally feel happier and have fewer health problems.
If you feel you're communicating clearly with your mate,
but your mate doesn't want to hear you, Dr. Northrup suggests
re-evaluating the situation. You may be compromising your
health. Dr. Northrup says communication issues often surface
at midlife, which is when many women begin to notice changes
in their health, particularly their thyroid energy. "The
function of the thyroid gland is influenced by our ability
to have our say, something that, for women, has been societally
blocked for thousands of years until relatively recently,"
says Dr. Northrup.
Five Ways to Communicate Without Blame
Kathlyn Hendricks, Ph.D., and Gay Hendricks, Ph.D, founders
of the Hendricks Institute and authors of more than 17 books,
including The Conscious Heart and Conscious Loving, say the
most valuable skill they have learned over the years is how
to communicate without blame.
"You need to learn to be sensitively aware of the uniqueness
of your partner," says Kathlyn Hendricks. The Hendrickses
teach people how to create harmony and intimacy and still
"tell the microscopic truth." Their top five communication
1. Listen generously. Reflect back what the person
said accurately. Hear the person's feeling. Tune in to what
the other person wants and feel what's underneath it. Listen
with your third ear.
2. Speak unarguably. That means speaking in statements
of fact that can't be argued. For example, you may say to
your partner: "I feel bad when you leave for work without
saying good-bye." You're saying that you feed bad (a
fact) when your partner does not say good-bye (also a fact),
and that cannot be argued. This way of speaking places no
blame and allows a conversation to happen without argument.
3. Focus on appreciation. The Hendrickses recommend
a 5-1 ratio of appreciation to complaint. Focus on positive
aspects of your partner and your relationship.
4. Turn your complaints into requests. For example,
ask your partner: "If I make dinner, will you clean up?"
Be committed to making clear agreements.
5. Shift from blame to wonder. Ask yourself how you
might be contributing to a communication problem. Kathlyn
Hendricks asks people to "hmmm," which shifts you
from your critical mind to your creative mind and, in turn,
causes you to shift from being right to having a healthier
relationship. Would you rather be right, or happy?
Four "Simple" Communication
Steve Stewart, author of 52 Simple Rules to Improve Your
Relationship, says that each partner needs to get what he
or she wants from a relationship for it to be successful.
To help couples communicate more effectively, Stewart uses
four simple but effective tools:
1. Ask for what you want. Stewart says that most
people don't ask for what they want because they think they
can't get it. But the opposite is typically true. Most people
are surprised to learn/to find out that they can get what
they want simply by asking.
2. Show your partner what you want to receive. "In
other words," says Stewart, "give your partner what
you would like your partner to give you."
3. Learn to negotiate. Relationships are give and
take. For example - "Honey, I will cook dinner, if you
will do the dishes afterward."
4. Learn to modify what you want. "Ask yourself
if what you want is really something you have to have,"
While Stewart believes that couples can overcome communication
style barriers, he says sometimes it may be more work than
it's worth. "If you're always giving in, or if you cannot
ask your partner to give you anything, it may be time to move
Source: Discovery Health, Coulson Duerksen