Communication is a multifaceted exchange that can be challenging to master, even in the best of relationships. Married couples must work especially hard to ensure they’re communicating clearly and effectively for the best possible outcomes. Becoming good communicators takes teamwork and patience, and the process isn’t always linear. It can take months or even years, depending on the couple.
We know many of the hallmarks of good communication, such as active listening, empathy, and offering feedback to ensure we understand one another. But what about the features of poor communication?
Today, Dr. Les and Leslie Parrott cover three major hallmarks of poor communication every couple should know. Being able to identify these features will help you both weed out bad habits so your communication can become more effective. Let’s jump right in.
1. MAKING ASSUMPTIONS
Making assumptions shuts down constructive communication. It effectively halts our ability to gain further empathy and understanding of one another, because once we’ve made an assumption, our mind is made up. From there, it’s incredibly difficult to level with one another in a meaningful way–at least regarding the topic at hand.
When you make an assumption regarding your spouse, you are:
Actively refusing to empathize, or see their point of view
Shutting down their ability to communicate further with you
Provoking them and creating unnecessary strain on the relationship
Escalating any conflicts you’re currently trying to resolve
Damaging the trust you’ve built together
Ultimately, assumptions create an emotionally unsafe environment in your marriage. The key to breaking them is self-awareness. Becoming aware that you’re prone to making assumptions can help you interrupt the pattern and guide yourself back to a more open-minded frame of mind, so you can pave the way for improved communication and understanding.
2. ACTING ON RAW EMOTION
Letting emotions drive us–particularly negative ones–can result in poor communication outcomes. It’s more difficult to solve issues and conflicts in your marriage when you don’t stop to think rationally before you act or speak. Raw emotion can make us reactive, which in turn creates further problems and damages our relationships.
Emotion can drive us to say and do things we regret later, so it’s important to pause and take stock of our thoughts and the situation before we respond. If you’ve noticed that you, your spouse, or both of you are prone to react based on the emotions of the moment, it’s time to take a breath and regroup. You’ll be glad you took a few moments to get centered so you can form a more thoughtful response.
3. BEING CRITICAL
Criticism is one of the most damaging attributes in a relationship. It breeds resentment and contempt if allowed to continue unhindered. Just like making assumptions, being critical of one another blocks communication and creates problems, rather than solving them.
While it’s healthy to offer constructive feedback to one another, being critical tends to result in the recipient feeling cut down and disrespected. Temper your urge to criticize by first examining yourself and considering how you might respond if the tables were turned. Mentally trading spaces with your spouse, then evaluating the criticism you’d like to dole out, helps to cool anger. It can also allow you the time you need to formulate a more loving way to convey your concerns.
NEED HELP IMPROVING YOUR COMMUNICATION?
We created the Love Talk Couples Kit to help spouses improve their communication and better speak each other’s language. Lasting love means persistent effort, and that includes keeping your communication skills healthy. If you need help improving communication in your marriage, this is a great place to begin. Get your kit here.
Contact our MFL team for marriage support anytime.
Your Marriage, Family and Life Team