Communication for Couples I

“We don’t communicate well!”

“We never talk.”

These are statements made in couples counseling that are fairly common. So the first question that has to be answered is: What is communication?


Many people don’t think about the fact that EVERYTHING one does communicates something. We think of communication as talking but the look on ones face, ignoring someone, body language, and the tone of voice can  speak louder than words.


If someone asks me a question and I take longer than usual to respond, it can be interpreted by the other person as me not hearing what was said, me ignoring what was said and farther, being hostile to what was said. I may be thinking about how to respond, be confused about what was said and trying to sort it out, I may by nature be more deliberate in my responses or indeed be ignoring the request.


It is helpful to go back to the last time you had a conflict that felt like miscommunications. Were you angry, disgusted or had you lost patience with that person? If so, in subtle (and maybe not so subtle) ways, you may have let them know of your feelings without telling them so you were both dealing with hidden messages. Think in your mind an alternative way that you could have communicated. Something like “I am really losing patience and I feel like you made a commitment to complete this and I don’t know what to do about it” instead of “When are you going to do this?” in an angry tone. This invites problem solving, you own your feelings, your not accusing the other of perceived motivations or emotions and there are no hidden messages.


If you work on this, over time your skills will get better. Have patience. It takes a while to get good at fully communicating in a way that encourages solutions. Have patience on your partner and give each other HUGE credit for trying and getting better.


More next time on “Communication for Couples”. Pam Kennel


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