Couples Communication: Try This, Not That
When it comes to communication, the words we use matter. And not everything that we communicate can be helpful in handling conflict. Marriage counseling and couples therapy can help you learn how to have productive fights.
And some of the best communication tools you can gain from couples therapy has to do with replacing words or phrases that can increase conflict.
Here are a few quick suggestions on phrases or words you can switch out next time you are in a disagreement with your spouse or partner.
Couples Therapy Communication Tip #1 — "And" versus "But":
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard myself say something like “I hear what you are saying, but….”
Parents use the word “but” when trying to teach their kids something. And it is often used when spouses disagree or are in conflict.
Using the word “but” often typically supersedes whatever gentle attempt is used in communication. It increases defensiveness. Or can make a person feel as though they are not good enough.
"That was a nice thought, but you weren’t listening to me."
“You got the dishwasher loaded, but you put the plates in the wrong position.”
“But” can be a deflating word in a relationship.
When attempting to have conversations, attempt to use the word "and" more often.
It can help to communicate more accurately what you want and decrease feelings of defensiveness or opposition from the hearer.
"That was very kind of you, and I think we should work through...."
“Thanks for loading the dishwasher, and I think it best to place the dishes this way.”
Couples Therapy Communication Tip #2 — "Always" and "Never":
Using "always" and "never" communicates absolutes. It gives little consideration to contributing factors to why the other person may behave the way they do. Phrases such as, "You're never on time..." or "You always do that..." sends a message of judgment and puts a person on the defensive. And that makes it challenging for your ideas to be received.
Rather than using the language of absolutes, attempt to use “I Statements” to communicate how you are feeling with the actions. It is a great tool for improved communication.
What are “I Statements” and Why Do I Recommend These in Couples Therapy?
It is when we begin a conversation by first recognizing the pain that we feel and sharing that with our spouse or partner.
“I feel______ when _______ happens.”
An example would be “I feel worried when it is late at night and I haven’t heard from you.”
That sounds much different than, “You are so inconsiderate. I cannot believe that you do not call me when you are out so late.”
Using “I Statements” helps one to share more accurately what is happening and leaves room for understanding the other person.
Couples Therapy Communication Tip #3 — "Just," "Still," and "Finally":
The word "just" can reflect your thoughts about the relevance or importance of something being discussed.
Saying, "It's just one thing," or "I'm just asking about..." can decrease the value of what is being shared and evoke shame in the other person. It can also lead a person to feel devalued.
Using the words "still" and "finally" can cast judgment on the other person related to time such as "You're still doing..." or "He finally realized..."
Decreasing your use of “still” and “finally” will reduce the chances of shaming the other person and decrease the odds of a downward spiral in the conflict.
Again, the use of “I Statements,” as well as active listening skills, can help communication to flow more freely.
Interested in Learning More About Communication Skills or Couples Therapy in Tigard, Tualatin, Portland, or Lake Oswego?
Couples therapy in Tigard, Portland, Tualatin, or Lake Oswego, OR can be a great investment in learning how to make communication a strength in the relationship. When used in conjunction with emotional self-regulation, these skills can help your relationship flourish.
To get started working with a skilled and compassionate couples therapist like Jason Wilkinson, then contact Wellspace Counseling today and get started on clearing up the communication in your relationship.
Jason Wilkinson loves helping couples learn how to improve and strengthen their relationship through communication. He is the owner of Wellspace Counseling, which serves the communities of Tigard, Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Portland Metro Area, and throughout the state of Oregon through the use of online counseling.