Conflict is one reason that relationships break up, and solving conflict is all about avoiding the communication mistakes that can hurt the bond that you have built with your partner.
A study in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences found ‘The most satisfied couples were those who did not avoid discussion of relationship problems and who rated their partners high in EI [Emotional Intelligence].’ Emotional Intelligence is your and your partner’s individual ability to detect someone’s emotional state based on their verbal and non-verbal cues.
When your partner says, ‘You seem angry,’ that is them picking up on your facial expression, body language, and the fact that you are giving them the silent treatment. We do this often in a relationship, but we rarely think about it as a skill. Women tend to have higher Emotional Intelligence than men do and they also perform more of the ’emotional work’ of the relationship.
Emotional work is the conversation and actions that people undertake to maintain a state of emotional harmony in their lives. Doing ’emotional work’ means that you are checking in with your partner’s emotions, asking how you can help them to feel better, drawing them into a discussion about feelings, or checking their level of anxiety (fear), anger, or sadness.
Let’s examine some of the most popular communication mistakes that may be hurting your relationship and how to correct any damage that’s been done so far.
DON’T LET THESE 6 COMMUNICATION MISTAKES HURT YOUR RELATIONSHIP
1. SHUTTING DOWN
Avoiding talking, giving someone the silent treatment, turning your back to them, or telling them that you don’t want to talk is a way of refusing to solve the problem. It’s okay to let yourself cool off if you are experiencing emotions like anger and you are worried that you won’t say anything kind.
When your anger, fear, or sadness get the most of you, you are more likely to hurt your partner’s feelings in communication, which solves nothing. Instead of shutting down all communication, let your partner know that you’d like some time to cool down or think about things before continuing the conversation.
2. TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY
This one is very difficult for anyone who does not have a strong sense of self-love. When your partner says that they hate it when you cook cabbage, it has nothing to do with your effort to cook them a healthy meal, so don’t take it personally.
Everyone has their own preferences and they have a right to ask you to do things their way. However, so do you. You have every right to make your home stinky with cabbage, whether or not it’s your favorite vegetable.
So whose rights are more important? Neither of yours. That’s where the divine art of compromise comes in. When you feel hurt by words that your partner says, look inside rather than blaming them for hurting you. Words can hurt, but only if you let them hurt you.
3. MAKING ASSUMPTIONS
Making assumptions is one way that people take things personally. When your partner says ‘Oh for the love of Pete!’ as soon as they come home from work, we can make all sorts of assumptions. Did I do something wrong?
Again, let’s avoid unnecessary hurt feelings and just ask your partner what’s wrong or if you can do anything to help. Maybe they had a frustrating day and just tripped over their shoelaces. You’ll never know unless you ask.
This quote by don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, says all you need to know about making assumptions and taking things personally:
‘The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth! We invent a whole story that’s only truth for us, but we believe it. One assumption leads to another assumption; we jump to conclusions, and we take our story very personally. Then we blame others and react by sending emotional poison with our word. Making assumptions and taking them personally creates a lot of emotional poison, and this creates a whole big drama for nothing.’ Your relationship should be a drama-free zone.
Filtering is a type of mind game that you play with yourself where you only hear the words that you want to hear, be they positive or negative. Make sure you are not tainting your partner’s meaning with your desires.
You’ve already made up your mind that what your partner said was bad/good. You made a judgment call as soon as they began. That’s terribly unfair and you wouldn’t want them to do that to you. Wait, give them the benefit of the doubt, and suspend judgment’indefinitely.
6. WAITING FOR YOUR TURN TO TALK INSTEAD OF LISTENING
You are not able to listen clearly if you are just rehearsing what you want to say in your head while your partner is talking. Active listening is a gift that you give your partner. Even if it pains you to keep listening about what the cat did today, listen like your life depended on it.
Turn your body and head toward your partner. Make good eye contact, mirror their facial expressions (match their excited expression by raising your eyebrows with interest, etc), ask questions after they are done talking, and to make sure that you understood them perfectly, sum up what you heard them say. NOW, it’s your turn to talk.