Improving and Practicing your Communication Skills
Relationships grow and develop when partners work on improving Communications skills
Talking and listening go together
Remember when school started in the fall and you had to write a paper or talk about what you did over the summer? You could simply report: we went to the lake, went fishing, hiked a mountain, went to the beach etc. OR you could talk about how you experienced the lake, water was so cold, the excitement about the fish you caught or your hike that was hard but satisfying. Have you ever talked to someone about a movie they saw and all they talk about is a blow by blow description of the movie and you have no idea of how the experienced or felt about the movie? Were they thrilled, scared , excited…who did they identify with??
Some key points to remember when you are talking:
1. Sharing Your Opinions, Feelings, or Thoughts About Something You Observe
The following are examples of this type of talking:
- “I noticed this morning during breakfast that when we were talking about having fun together you became very quiet and withdrawn.”
- “You looked like you were uncomfortable with my parents during dinner last night.”
2. Sharing Your Thoughts About what you are Thinking, Believing, Interpreting or Expecting
Be careful to know the difference between thoughts and feelings. The following examples are expressions of thought:
- “I think I need to go to bed early tonight.”
- “I think I’ll go for a walk.”
These examples express feelings:
- “I feel sad and lonely when you leave.”
- “I really enjoy laughing with you!”
3. Expressing Your Feelings
Feelings are best expressed through “I feel” statements: I feel mad, sad, glad, scared.
Feelings may also be expressed through descriptions:
- “I’m sad that John has left.”
- “I have butterflies in my stomach before I get up to speak.”
- “When you become angry, I get really scared.”
“You” statements can put others on the defensive and sound as if you know what their inner intentions are.
- “You make me so mad when you come home late”
- “You know it upsets me when you leave dirty dishes in the sink!”
Try to establish “I” statements that describe your feelings.
4. Sharing Your Wants for You, Your Partner and Your relationship
For example, your wants could include the following:
- “I want to relax tonight.”
- “I want a hug.”
- “I don’t want…”
Examples of your wants for your partner could include the following:
- “I want you to feel supported by me”
- “I want you to relax and let yourself have some fun tonight.”
Examples of wants for both of you or for your relationship could include:
- “I want us to have a good time together this weekend.”
- “I want us to stay in touch and talk about how each of us feels when we visit your parents next week.”
Attempt to separate needs from wants. Stating wants to your partner does not mean you will always have them met, but you have made them known.
5. Make Statements About What You Have Done, Are Doing, or Intend to Do
These statements are about actions that can be observed by others and are different from feelings and thoughts. Talking about what you will do makes intentions clear and understandable. It also lets others know you are aware of your behavior and what it means.
The following are examples of these types of statements:
- “I will be at the recital on Tuesday.”
- “I will not hug you without being asked anymore.”
- “When we talk, I will begin to tell you what I am really thinking and feeling.”
Remember your nonverbal body language is just as important as what you say: facial expression, voice tone and volume, attitude and how you are feeling about you and your partner prior to talking will affect the quality of your talk.
Observe your listener and share the floor!!!
Are they bored, turned off, angry, look scared, look impatient and in a hurry? Are they interested and curious about what you are saying? If you dominate the conversation after a while you will not be listened to or heard.
This develops as you learn more about yourself and others.
By tuning in and understanding your own feelings, you will learn about other’s feelings, values, opinions, thoughts and actions. This is the basis of understanding what motivates people and the foundation of a good relationship with not only our intimate partner, but kids, friends, coworkers and family.
For More information, see:
Taking Space- How to use Separation to Explore the Future of Your Relationship (Ground Rules for Talking, p. 17)