3 Essential Tools for Effective Communication

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It’s not about the dishes or the socks left on the floor. It’s often about what is happening for us underneath the everyday issues that is not being shared — the emotional disconnection, unmet needs and longings, and feelings of abandonment and rejection. This lack of emotional connection and meeting of needs leads to negative communication patterns, where often one partner says, “I blame because you get defensive,” and the other partner responds, “I get defensive because you blame.”

So how do we begin to shift out of these negative communication patterns that we tend to get stuck in? Here are three essential tools to help you build effective communication and connection in your relationship.

Shift Out of Blame and Into Softer Emotions

For many, blame and anger is a comfortable position. We know that we blame others when we are dealing with uncomfortable emotions. So instead of sitting with pain, sadness, or fear, we show frustration and irritability to our partners.

Blame can sound like:

“If you just did…”

“You never…”

“You always…”

In order to shift out of blame, we need to access our softer emotions, what are often referred to as primary or core emotions. To help shift out of blame, try using a soft start-up. This might be something like “Hey, I have something going on, do you have a minute to talk about it?” Use “I feel…” language and let your partner know what some of your more vulnerable feelings are.

Shift Out of Defensiveness and Take Responsibility

Defensiveness is the response to protect the self from a perceived attack. However, defensiveness does not resolve conflict nor does it bring us closer to our partners. It continues partners to be stuck in their negative communication patterns.

The antidote to defensiveness? Take responsibility. It is not about who is right or wrong. Instead, taking responsibility means that you are acknowledging how your partner is feeling and how your actions impacted them.


Validate Our Partners

This is a key skill for all relationships. Validation is communicating clearly to others that you are paying attention to them and that you understand them. Validation does not mean that the other person is right. It simply means that you are a witness to their experience and you are curious about what your partner is saying to you. An example of validation would be stating “I see that you are feeling upset about this.”

We are responsible for how we communicate in our relationships. Making these small shifts can be incredibly impactful on developing a healthy and secure connection.


Tags: Marriage, Dating

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Written By

Dr. Tracy Dalgleish

Dr. Tracy Dalgleish helps individuals and couples navigate the challenges we all face in our relationships and within ourselves to create a more meaningful life. See Full Bio

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