Communication with your spouse is a skill that will never be mastered and must be continuously practiced.
Let’s try something new here. If your spouse is in the room, you can start now, if not wait until they get home. Ready for the rules?
Look at them for 60 seconds and figure out what they are thinking. No talking to them, no questions, try and tell how they are feeling and what they are thinking only by watching them.
So how do you think you did? Now ask them and see what they have to say.
If you are like Heather and me, you have been together a long time, for us, it is 26 years. We think we are good at figuring out what the other person is thinking and feeling; all without having to say a word to the other person. Come to find out; we really are not that good at it.
Communication is a tricky thing to get right. No matter how many years couples have been together, they still get it wrong. It is just a hard fact of life that communication between two parties is a complicated dance. Odds are someone is going to get their toes stepped on.
Governments hire diplomats to do the communication for them. When money, trade, or even war rides on getting the exact word, tonal inflection and body language right it is smart to hire the professionals.
Now unless you and your spouse have enough money to hire professional diplomats; it is time to brush up on your communication skills. (This is usually good to do before you end up hiring the expensive communicators, the divorce attorneys.)
Here is a list of five ways to improve communication.
1. Be an active listener.
Being an active listener is harder than it sounds at first. Being an active listener means paying 100 percent attention to your spouse. Hearing what they are trying to convey without putting our thoughts into it. Listening to someone can be hard. Images of our day keep creeping into our head. Or maybe something they say reminds you of a funny story from your workday. Being an active listener means you don’t interrupt with your thoughts or story. It means you listen until they are done speaking. Make what they are saying to you the most critical thing in your life at that moment.
2. Ask open-ended questions.
Remember asking your kids how their day was, and the answer was always, “OK.” One word answers, understandable for a surly teenager; not so much for the person, you plan on spending the rest of your life with. Asking open-ended questions takes away the option for an easy yes or no answer. Having trouble thinking of questions? Try asking them what they would do in a situation from your day. “Hey, my boss thinks I should approach Bill about his sloppy work habits. How would you handle it if you were me?”.
This type of question not only gives them an opportunity to talk but also allows them to feel closer to you; by helping you deal with a situation, you are facing at work.
3. No distractions.
This one is probably going to be the hardest one for people to do these days. Why? Well, cellphones of course! These days we are used to being constantly bombarded with texts, emails, calls, updates, Instagrams, tweets, notifications, and scores. It doesn’t end; it won’t end unless you make it end. You are in charge of your phone; it is not in charge of you. Do want to be a good listener? Turn the volume off, put it in the other room. Take a 15-minute break from all the noise and truly listen to what your significant other has to say. No phone, no T.V, no tablet or laptop. Just you and the person you love TALKING to each other. Trust me, do this a few times and you will not only learn a lot about your spouse, but you may also actually learn to put your phone away more often.
4. Non-verbal communication.
Now, this is a tricky one. It can lead to learning more about your partner, or lots of fights because you got it wrong. Humans convey tons of information non verbally. Through stance, hand gestures, eyebrows, hips, lips, and eyes (Plus every other part of the body, just making sure you are aware). As Shakira says, “Hips don’t lie…” the trouble for most of us is we have no idea what language they are speaking.
I can tell you a few I have learned, if she is flipping you off, you more than likely did something wrong. If they are laying on the ground writhing in pain clutching their left arm; this is not non-verbal it is a heart attack. Seek help immediately. If you see a fist coming at your face, you done pissed her off son.
Non-verbal communication can be dangerous ground. My advice? Ask. That is it. Ask. Use words to solve your dilemma; it is better than getting punched in the face. True story. (Disclaimer here. We at Empty Nestin do not advocate punching people in the face, it is wrong and just plain mean. Also, no Animals were harmed in the writing of this article.)
5. Be consistent.
Do you only eat once a week? No, you don’t. Most people eat at least once a day. To eat once a week would be harmful to your body and mind. The same goes for communicating with your partner. To have productive and successful communication, you absolutely must practice it daily.
We know it is hard. Sometimes you come home from a long day at work and just want to rest. Before you do, talk to your partner. Even fifteen minutes a day can go a long way in building trust and understanding.
Open communication with your spouse is essential to a successful and happy marriage. Communication is like most things in life, the more you invest in it, the more you will get out of it.