Everything that passes between two people is communication. That includes words, eye contact, body language as well as
seeking or avoidance behavior.
Everyone has seen unskillful communication and the distress it can bring.
"You always ignore me and go straight to the TV" or "Why don't you ever cook any thing I like"
It's fairly obvious that these types of communications will make the other person defensive
and unlikely to respond positively.
But think of the reaction for these communications
"I enjoy talking with you so much. Do you think we can set aside a little time to talk in
the evening?" or "I really like that dish that you made last week. Do you think that you
could make it more often?" More likely to get a positive response, don't you think ?
Make sure the communication is clear. For example, "it would be nice if
the garbage were put out" is ambiguous. Who is being asked and what
is the time frame? A clearer communication would be "John, the
garbage is about full. Would you mind bringing it outside sometime
Finish sentences! Here's an example of incomplete sentences (that really
represents a type of withdrawal or giving up) "Do you know what I
would really like? Oh, forget it!"
Don't expect the other person to be a mind reader. "She knows what I
would like." A quick glance over at her reveals a confused look. One thing is
certain, you are very unlikely to get what you want if you don't say
what it is.
Communication should not be attacking. For example, avoid language
that implies that the other person is unintelligent, like "Let me use
small words, so you can understand me."
If you are about to start a sentence with "You" or are going to use
the words "always" or "never," pause. See if you can start the sentence
with "I" and use "sometimes" in place of "always" or "never."
Requests are easier to respond to than commands. See if you can start
requests with "Would you consider...?" or "Could you...?"
Assess your requests for reasonableness. To use an extreme example, if
someone has their arms full of grocery bags, is it a good time to ask them
what time it is? Or if one spouse is working long hours, is it reasonable to
ask for additional work?
If the other person shows signs of withdrawal in response to your
request, pause. If you feel the urge to demand a response, take a few deep
breathes. Take a moment to review your communications, i.e., were they
aggressive or demanding? If they were, see if you can adjust. Speak to
that person in a different tone and use different words. See if you
can "bring them back."
Another approach is to establish silence and attempt to make benign, quiet
eye contact. Ask the other person about how they would like to resolve the
issue and what would make them more comfortable in doing so (taking a
walk, writing the issues down, taking breaks, talking with a counselor
Offer compensating benefits. For example, if you want to go golfing on
Sunday morning, offer to watch the children on Saturday morning so your
wife can have time for her hobbies.
Communication is really the tip of an iceberg representing a larger, whole person underneath.
If common sense techniques fail to yield the results that you want, further exploration can help.
Each of you has an idea of how relationships "should be" based on your upbringing and based on other
relationships you have each had. It is likely that each of you has unresolved emotional issues from
The communications comments and techniques listed below are for educational purposes only.
They should only be reviewed or used when two people have a generally respectful relationship
(i.e., when there is no history of actual or threatened violence).