images.jpg

Getting out of Repetitious Communication

Many theories of couples counseling have something in common; a structured format for communication. This is something that can be learned and practiced on your own, and it helps to fine tune the details with the support of a therapist.

Why is this helpful? Because it slows the process down from escalating out of control, and it gives the speaker a more complete sense of feeling heard. Do you ever feel like you or your partner sound like a broken record? This may because you or they don’t have enough confidence that their words are getting through to their partner.

Reflective listening is a powerful tool for couples. It involves reflecting back what you heard your partner say before responding with your own point. Once your partner knows you heard and understand what they said, they are then able to open themselves up more to listen to what you have to say.

You can understand your partner without necessarily agreeing with them! This is a key point because if you strongly disagree with your partner, you wouldn’t want to give the impression that you agree. But you can still acknowledge that they have their own viewpoint, and acknowledge what that viewpoint is. This goes a long way towards lowering their defenses.

Say, for example, you often leave the cap off of the toothpaste. In your mind, you’re just going to use it again tomorrow so why does it matter? Your partner asks you to put the cap on after every use, because she fears bacteria. If you respond with, “No one’s ever died from their toothpaste,” soon you’re off to the races arguing about germs and the original issue gets lost.

So what does reflective listening look like? Imagine how the conversation might go differently if you responded with, “So what you’re saying is that you’d like me to put the cap back on each time, because you’re afraid of getting germs. Do I have that right?”

Once you reflect back what you hear, there’s still room for you to express your own points. Ask for your partner to reflect back to you what they heard, as well. You might be surprised by how good it feels to receive!

Try this the next time you interact with your partner. It’s better to practice on low-stakes issues before tackling the highly charged issues.  Once you’ve practiced a few times, you’re ready to integrate this tool into your home life and enjoy a more supportive way of communicating!

 Olivia Stadler, MFT intern is a clinician at The SF Marriage and Couples Center. Olivia offers sliding scale therapy for couples and individuals. 

Olivia Stadler, MFT intern is a clinician at The SF Marriage and Couples Center. Olivia offers sliding scale therapy for couples and individuals. 

Try this the next time you interact with your partner. It’s better to practice on low-stakes issues before tackling the highly charged issues.  Once you’ve practiced a few times, you’re ready to integrate this tool into your home life and enjoy a more supportive way of communicating!

Comment