When it comes to having happiness in your relationship, are you fighting fairly? When we think about relationships, we might see they can be imbalanced, one-sided or questionable at times. Perhaps accountability, trust, or respect is not happening. Both parties benefit from working at having these characteristics in a relationship. Truth be told, it starts with you.
Having Healthy communication
All too often, people think they are communicating. When in fact, most don’t realize active listening skills can be a basic skill set that is being overlooked Do you realize that when practicing this basic skill set, you improve your chances of being successful in a relationship?
If you are not observing and listening, then you are missing these key pieces of communication. In order to create diplomacy, respect and an environment where you are working together, active listening skills are necessary. What are some of these skills?
When actively listening, you want to show the person you are encouraging them to speak. You can do this by neither agreeing nor disagreeing but instead, sharing something simple, such as, “Tell me more.” Counselors swear by this phrase, “Tell me more.” It shows the person you are interested in what they are saying.
Another key phrase is, “I hear you; keep going.” This allows the person to see that you have an interest in what is being shared. The person feels encouraged to keep talking. All too often, we are more concerned or preparing what we are going to say next to justify our stance in the discussion. However, if you are truly listening to the other person, then you are able to swallow your pride and encourage them to speak more.
Even utterings such as, “ah..yes,” or “uh-huh,” “mmm” can be encouraging. Also, head nods work.
Clarifying is a simple way to make things clearer. By asking questions, you are searching and gathering for more understandable information. Gathering information is yet another method counselors use to understand the other person’s perspective.
Paraphrasing is a way to give feedback. This method of active listening allows the other person to understand what he or she is saying. You basically restate the speaker’s words in a similar way he or she already started it. Think of it as repeating what the other person said. By using paraphrasing, the speaker sees you are paying attention.
Reflecting allows you to further understand what the speaker is thinking because you are trying to catch the speaker’s basic feelings. For example, if the other speaker talks about how sad he/she is or what his/her feelings are hurt, you can reflect back, “It looks like you are sad and hurt about this.”
Summarizing allows you to review the progress being made in the conversation. This active listening skill helps establish the reason or the facts in the discussion. To summarize, basically repeat the key points the speaker is sharing with you. Think of it as a verbal representation of bullet points on paper.
Finally, validation allows the other person to feel safe in what he or she is sharing. This is one of the most important active listening skills. By validating someone’s feelings, they are more likely to let his/her guard down and continue to share.
Validation can let the speaker feel trusting towards you. An example of validation is, “I am glad you shared that with me. I am listening; your feelings are important.”
It is not always about justifying your point, reasoning or stance on the discussion at hand. Yes, you might have a valid point of view too, but in using these active listening skills, you allow the conversation to go in a balanced direction rather than potentially escalating into an argument.
If your stance is to ignore, confront without listening to the other speaker’s point of view, take power or attack the speaker, then surely you are not interested in listening. Listening is the key to reaching a compromise or an agreement.
Fighting Fairly Defined
When fighting fairly, you want to know what the problem is. In order to work through a problem, you have to know what the problem is and define it. Work with your partner to see what the initial problem is because as a discussion changes or morphs, further issues might come up.
However, it is important to define and concentrate on the problem at hand.
- Don’t bring up other issues unrelated to the problem. An example of bringing up an issue unrelated to the problem would be: arguing about not being able to go out with your friends and one person bringing up the fact that the lawn was not mowed for three weeks and it is overdue for its maintenance also.
- Don’t go for retaliation. I see couples go tit-for-tat. An example is “Well, you did (or did not do) this same thing yesterday (last week or the month before)”. This is to be avoided also because it is a manipulation. It comes off as blame instead of taking your role in responsibility. Let’s say in a heterosexual couple, the man wants to hang out with his friends, yet the woman complains that she hasn’t hung out with her friends for at least three months. Basically, the message is, “I don’t want you to hang out with your friends since I haven’t.” If the woman is not taking initiative to hang out with her friends and not making the request, then that falls on the woman. She could plan and ask to hang out with friends unless there is unfairness in the relationship where power and control is the bigger issue.
- Don’t attack the person. Make your request known and deal with the problem by listening clearly. Try to use active listening skills instead of thinking about what your next move should be. If you are labeling or name-calling, then you are attacking the person and this is verbal and emotional abuse. Even raising your tone of voice and volume can be seen as an attack.
- Respect the person’s feelings. These types of discussions are easier in relationships where each is working towards an equal or fair relationship. In these types of relationships, each can work on taking responsibility for his/her actions. Validation is key here to show you are respecting the other person’s feelings.
DISCLAIMER: If you are in a relationship that is unhealthy or falling into the power and control realm, then these efforts for fighting fairly and using active listening skills might not work. This may be a good time to reach out to a counselor and understand the bigger picture or any next steps to save the relationship.
Key Points to Fighting Fairly
- Define the actual problem.
- Concentrate on the problem and don’t bring up other issues unrelated to the problem.
- Don’t go tit-for-tat or retaliate to sway the other person.
- Don’t attack the person. Stay away from verbally and emotionally abusing your partner.
- Use active listening skills and don’t just think about what you are going to say next.
- Respect the person’s feelings by practicing reflecting or validation.
- Take responsibility where you can.
- Leave the conversation taking some angle of responsibility.
- Thank one another for working through the disagreement in a communicative, conflict-resolution type of way.
- Give yourself a pat-on-the-back for working at the relationship.
How to Train Your Brain to Better Communicate
When learning this style of communication, you are essentially learning a skill set. Learning new skills takes time. It takes practice and putting it into action is the hardest part. However, if you can remind yourself to actively practice these skills with your partner, communication will improve over time. It takes effort. If you haven’t heard yet, relationships take work. Especially the ones worth fighting for.