Communication lies at the heart of many different problems that couples face. Barriers to effectively communicating tend to take a toll on numerous aspects of the marriage – simply because couples don’t have a good sense of what’s going on with one another.
This can lead to ignoring ongoing issues, mistakes based on miscommunication, and frustration and anger when it feels like your spouse just isn’t listening to what you have to say.
There can, of course, be other roadblocks to communication – from problems trusting to personal difficulty opening up, from insecurity to simple lack of communication skills – that can make these situations even more difficult, but for now, we’ll look at simple, behavioral ways to think about our own ways of speaking to help our spouses be better listeners.
1. Promote Dialogue
No one likes to be “talked at.” When conversations are totally one sided, it can cause people to shut down, and all but stop listening – no matter the topic. As the speaker, it’s easy to get on a roll and make point after point, or recount every detail of a story without considering how it might be affecting your listener.
With a little bit of conscious awareness, though, we can stop this problem from happening. By simply slowing down and making a point to pay attention to the other person, we can prevent ourselves from steamrolling them with a monologue. To encourage a real conversation, we need to promote dialogue – and this is done by asking questions (or at the very least, allowing space for response and comments).
2. It Can’t Be All About You
Similar to the point above, another way to shut down true communication is to make the entire conversation (or series of conversations) all about you. When you just talk about yourself, what’s going on in your life and in your own head, you are showing your spouse (without actually saying it), that your personal concerns are more important than anything else that might be going on around you.
Even if you don’t mean it, your spouse might feel like you aren’t interested in their problems or successes if you spend all of your energy talking about your own. Even further, it will make them feel like you don’t value their input if you aren’t ever asking for opinions or advice.
Whether it’s talking about “third parties” or allowing your spouse to guide the topic of conversation, getting away from focusing primarily on yourself will open up plenty of new avenues for dialogue, and likely help your spouse be more interested in listening and responding.
3. Control Your Tone
If your conversation is a contentious one, that is, if you’re talking to your spouse about something they’ve done wrong, something that has upset you, or something you would like them to change – tone is everything!
There’s a massive difference between a concerned talk about a problem that affects the stability and strength of the marriage, and an outright attack on someone’s behavior or character. By keeping anger in check, avoiding absolutes, sarcasm, personal attacks, etc., you keep the conversation on the topic at hand, instead of pushing emotional buttons that can make people shut down, grow defensive, and ignore any criticism directed at them.
Again, good communication is essential for any healthy relationship, and taking steps to improve the way you communicate with your spouse will actually improve the way they communicate with you as well! Just remember to be aware of the listener when speaking, and imagine what it’s like to be in their position. By putting yourself in their shoes, you can keep your own bad habits in check and promote better communication for everyone involved!