You Can Communicate Better
Many couples come into my office and describe their problem as “communication,” a vague concept. In this post, I would like to describe one way for people to improve their general communication with each other.
Think about your communication (the messages that you send) with your partner along this continuum:
Your goal in improving general communication is to be clear about whether you are sending Positive, Neutral, or Negative messages. Here is an example:
Imagine that you are home with your partner and child. As usual, it has been a busy day; you are all tired but there are still things to take care of before you can fall into bed. You call out to your partner: “Did you call the electrician?”
Did you REALLY mean:
1. You idiot. Take some responsibility. I told you to call – I’ve done all the other calls.
2. I am reminding you to call the electrician, but I am being subtle.
3. I am collecting information so I know what is going on about the appt.
Answer #1 indicates that you figure that your partner forgot to call and you are irritated. “Did you call” was not really a question; it was a criticism poorly disguised as a question.
Answer #2 indicates that “Did you call” was not a real question either. It is a nudge because you don’t totally trust your partner to take care of it.
Answer #3 is a real question, a neutral question, to gain information so you can proceed (to call, to remind your partner to call, to relax, to get angry).
Your first goal is to be clear. Your second goal is to get more of your communication into NEUTRAL. Most people are busy so, if you have a criticism, say so. Try to be polite, but don’t pretend that you are asking a legitimate question. Then your partner can rely on your communication – questions are questions, comments and criticisms are not fake questions but they are clear.