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Communicating is Not Optional
How to Listen So Your Partner Will Talk
Part 1 of 4

Larry James

The #1 problem in relationships is "Undelivered Communications!" Withholding important conversation from your partner nearly always proves to be the destructive force behind the, "My partner will not listen to me!" or "My partner will not talk to me" complaint.

Instead of complaining, deliver the communication - in a loving way - to your partner.

We withhold for many reasons. The main reason seems to be that when we do get up the courage to say what needs to be said - something our partner would rather not hear - our partner gets into the conversation and begins to deny or justify their position or shift the blame to the other partner without accepting any responsibility for their share of the problem.

"Let the disagreement begin!" Usually the decibel level goes off the meter and the argument escalates! The result would be different if both partners would only listen when their partner speaks.

Communicating is not optional. It is an absolute necessity for the success of the relationship. Not communicating with your relationship partner - or not allowing them access to your thoughts and feelings - can exact a heavy price. A communications gap doesn't only undermine the potential of the relationship; it can, and usually will eventually destroy the relationship.

The sound of silence in a relationship is deafening. The silent treatment sends many messages - "I'm not interested," "I have nothing of value to say," "Whenever I say something you argue with me," "I give up. . . what's the use?" and more.

What stops you from communicating is not making a decision to do so. "Take all the time you need to decide, but the ice cream is melting!"

When your partner decides to communicate with you, he/she does so to fulfill a need.

Everyone manages emotion, communication and conflict from habit - patterns and styles developed early in life. In this context the past greatly affects your present relationship. To have a happy and successful relationship, you need to take control of how you interact with your partner.

It is my opinion that some of the greatest needs of human beings - after physical survival - is to be understood, affirmed, validated, forgiven and appreciated. The best way to get your needs met is to communicate those needs.

Never assume that your partner knows how you feel. People tend to rely heavily on assumptions to communicate. The problem with that is that you can't be sure if someone's assumptions are the same as yours, unless you communicate. Your partner cannot read your mind. Hints don't work.

Your methods of communication are more important than the messages themselves. Your tone of voice is also more important than what you say.

There is no such thing as a relationship without conflict! Some conflicts are small. Others are colossal and difficult to manage. How you resolve the conflict, not how many occur, is the critical factor in determining whether a relationship will be healthy or unhealthy, mutually satisfying or unsatisfying, friendly or unfriendly, deep or shallow, intimate or cold.

In the midst of a disagreement, we often have ears that listen with prejudiced views. Learn how to speak so your love partner will hear what you are really saying.

You get a higher return on your relationship investment by communicating openly and honestly. Reach an agreement to talk about anything and everything, all the time. It's a promise that may be difficult to keep, however the fact that the promise is in place makes your commitment to it much easier to keep.

When you shut down and your partner feels the need to call your attention to this promise, you are more likely to get back on track and less likely to be upset by it because of your initial agreement.

It takes courage to talk about something you know your partner would rather not discuss especially if you know that in the past it has nearly always sparked an argument that ended with no resolution and hurt feelings.

When coaching couples about how to better communicate, I recommend the following process. Here's how it works:

Step #1. The first night - It's your time to talk and your partner's time to only listen.

Step #2. The next night - Your partner talks and you only listen.

Step #3. The third time you get together is two or three days later - Have a mutual, low decibel level, interactive conversation (two-way communication) intended to reach some mutually agreeable solutions.

IMPORTANT: This 3rd step includes the promise to make some personal changes in the way you are being in the relationship. This part of the process is about negotiating a win-win situation.

This protocol helps you to avoid the pitfalls - hostility, defensiveness, contempt, retaliation, and withdrawal - so typical of many disagreements. Only one person at a time "has the floor" each night in steps 1 and 2.

The intention of this process is twofold:

1. To help you learn to better communicate what needs to be said.

2. To help you be a committed listener when you partner needs to communicate with you.

If you want the emotional healing that can come from voluntary disclosure to your partner, you must probe your feelings and emotions with renewed passion. Be aware that past traumas and the memory demons that accompany them are real and they contain trapped energy that must be reclaimed for you to feel happy and powerful.

It takes a lot of energy to remain confused. If you feel stuck, perhaps it's time to get clear about confusion. As long as you remain confused, you will not have to commit to and/or take responsibility for a plan of action such as communicating with your partner or promising to make some positive changes.

Trapped energy causes you to cling to misconceptions about your relationship. This process will help you convert painful emotional energy into powerful energy you can use to move your relationship forward. Once the precious energy that was trapped as a painful experience becomes free, it can then be expressed as forgiveness, goodness, beauty and love.

Attitude is everything. Begin with the right frame of mind. You must approach this process as two equal partners working together to solve a problem.

Flip a coin to see who goes first. If possible, choose a time when things seem to be going rather smoothly, no lingering disagreements in the air, no anger. IMPORTANT: Arrange to meet in a quiet place where there will be no interruptions.

Be very clear about the "just listen" part of this process. One night "she" talks and "he" only listens and the next night "he" talks and "she" only listens. Bring some notes to keep you from getting lost, forgetting your point or the intention of the process.

What issues are relevant to your relationship - really relevant? Speak the relevant truth. What is important to your relationship right now? The answer to these questions will assist you in only speaking about what affects your relationship currently. To bring up irrelevant past issues is inconsistent with this process.

It's time to openly and honestly communicate by telling the truth about what has been missing in your relationship that has brought you to this point in time. Choosing wisely what you say and how you say it gives you great power.

Before you begin, ask yourself this question: "Do you want to be right or happy?" Privately address each issue with the question, "Will this be important to me tomorrow, next week, next month?" "Is it all that important in the whole scheme of things?" Once you have answered these questions honestly, you will then know what issues are truly important and the order of their importance.


Copyright © - Larry James - Adapted from the book, "How to Really Love the One You're With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship" by Larry James

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