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Communication Skills - Drop the Defense for Meaningful Conversations

Listening is our most important communication skill

Listen up.

Looking for one simple thing that can make all the difference in your relationship? Start with listening, really listening.

Often when we communicate, we clog up the channels by letting our own reactions -- such as defensiveness or wounded pride --, interfere with how well we listen to our partners. Our impulse is to interrupt with explanations long before we actually hear all of what our partners is trying to say.

That leaves them with more to say, feeling unsatisfied and unheard, and often leaves the situation unresolved.

Being Attuned Can Help - ATTUNE Communication Skills

ATTUNE is a communication skills model for strengthening relationships embraced by Dr. John Gottman (of the Gottman Institute ). It incorporates:

  • A wareness of your partner's emotion;

  • T urning toward the emotion;

  • T olerance of two different viewpoints;

  • trying to U nderstand your partner;

  • N on-defensive responses to your partner;

  • and responding with E mpathy.

The N is what we're keying in on here with a few suggestions to help you develop non-defensive listening skills..

Listening without getting defensive can be hard to master. How we speak to each other can help.

Issues should be stated without blame and with a positive need presented, so our defensive reactions don't override our thoughts. When you are presenting your complaint use “I” statements, such as ”when you do that, I feel this.”

Make sure to let your partner finish before you jump in.

And if you are on the receiving end of a complaint, try self soothing before jumping on the defensive. Keep a notepad close by and write down what your partners says and what defensiveness it sparks in you. Use this for reference when it's your turn to speak (remember, don't interrupt). Then remind yourself you're having this conversation because you love your partner and you want them to be happy.

If you separate your hurt from your relationship, it can help you listen patiently without jumping in with your hackles up.

Make sure love and respect stay front and center in those hard conversations. Remember good moments and those times your partner has shown you love, made you laugh, shared your joy.

Take deep breaths and focus on staying relaxed, but don't tune out when doing so. And don't take it personally. Even if the complaint is about something you did or didn't do, remember it's about your partner's needs and getting defensive won't help them, nor will it help you move past it together.

If you can't get past a certain something that is said, ask your partner to restate what is bothering them. Tell them your defensiveness is getting in the way of you truly understanding and ask them to reword, so you two can work together for a solution.

If you need it, ask for a time out. Ask your partner to take a break so you can get a better hold on your emotions. Tell them you're starting to take things personally and you need a few minutes to regroup and focus on the positives of your relationship, so the conversation can be productive and generate mutually beneficial results.

And ask your partner for reassurance. Be honest when you feel overwhelmed and simply ask them to tell you again how much they love you. This is a much better approach than simply laying the blame at their feet and telling them to figure it out on their own.

By staying aware of your triggers and employing simple strategies to control your reactions, you can move past sparring matches to solid communication and toward a more loving and deeper relationship.

If you and your partner would like more strategies for listening and better communicating with one another, our team of amazing counselors can help. Call us today for your free consultation .