|Communication Skills, Part II
Last week we talked about the importance of communication to our
relationships, and how one cannot enjoy intimacy in a relationship
without it. To recap, visit
In summary, we discussed two powerful communication skills that
are critical to your relationship success. Today we will
demonstrate the first skill--creating a context--in action. We
will also review another powerful relationship skill--going far
Let's look at two similar conversations side-by-side, one in
which a context is given and one where it is not. Let's examine
the effectiveness of each approach. The topic of both
conversations will be household chores, with the wife
approaching the husband for the discussion.
Without providing a context:
The wife: "We need to talk."
The husband: "Oh, my god, what could she want to talk about?
What's wrong? What did I do now?" His thoughts and emotions are
focused on THE hot button issues of the relationship. He gets on
the defensive in case he will be attacked.
The wife talks about the subject, perhaps her feelings, what
needs to be done, what she wants, but her husband doesn't hear
much of this. He only hears what he felt prepared to hear
believing he was going to be attacked. The couple will most
likely get into a fight as a result of this conversation.
With providing a context:
The wife: "Honey, I want to talk to you about the division of
The husband: "I don't feel like it (perhaps), but ok." Or, "I
don't feel like it right now, how about in a half-
The husband's thoughts and emotions are focused on housework.
This may not be his favorite subject, but he will participate,
brainstorm and listen, as long as the wife sticks to the
subject. The couple will likely end up resolving some issues and
are likely to walk away from the conversation feeling closer.
Don't assume this dynamic only happens in marriages or is
gender-based. All relationships--intimate, work, friendships and
family--can benefit from setting a context for conversations.
Providing a context allows you to have conversations and resolve
issues that are otherwise difficult to approach. In fact, the
more difficult the subject, the more context you need to provide
to preempt the other person from overreacting or becoming
Even when you do provide a thorough context, your partner may
still have a negative reaction to a sensitive or charged
subject. In this case, stop the conversation and address what is
going on with him or her. Sometimes it's better to take a break
and try the conversation again later.
Keep practicing to reap the benefits of this communication skill.
Communication Skill II: Going Far Enough
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and walked away
knowing the other person misinterpreted what you said? Have you
ever ended a conversation wanting a response or action but not
knowing whether the person would follow through? These are
common experiences and the topic of many of my coaching sessions.
Rarely do we have difficult conversations to simply express
ourselves. We mainly have difficult conversations to create an
understanding, to change a situation, to create some concrete
result. Frequently people are too stressed to remember this when
they approach others with difficult subjects, and hence they
forget to get the result.
Additionally, when we approach others with difficult subjects,
they may go into shock or resistance and say nothing,
stonewalling or blowing us off. Most people walk away at this
point, even though they did not get what they wanted out of the
conversation. When damage has been inflicted, many people are
hesitant to rock the boat.
Unfortunately, unless you push a conversation like this
forward, you are unlikely to get what you want. Whether you are
trying to talk to your partner about sex or doing the dishes, or
your boss about a raise, or your kids about their misbehavior,
you need to push forward through the initial discomfort and get
into the conversation. I call this "going far enough" because
you have to venture "far enough" into the conversation to get
what you want.
Please do not mistake this for bullying someone into giving you
what you want. A conversation really does need to be a
conversation, with both people listening and speaking, with both
Below are guidelines to allow you to go far enough in your
* Be tactful, but completely honest.
* Say all you need to say.
* Communicate all of your relevant feelings.
* Frequently ask your partner to paraphrase what you are saying.
* Correct all misunderstandings, then ask your partner to
* Check in with your partner about what kind of feelings and
thoughts the conversation is bringing up.
* Clearly request the results or action you want.
* Ask your partner to paraphrase your request.
* Correct all misunderstandings.
* Ask your partner if and how he/she intends to honor your
* Negotiate. Offer to honor some of his/her requests.
* Continue to communicate firmly but gently, even when you
* Return to the conversation later, if needed.
* Communicate until the two of you arrive at a compromise
acceptable to both.
* Give your partner the freedom of practicing all of the above
Remember, the art of getting what you want is a communication
skill and takes time to master. Expect to get better with
practice. Although it takes courage to stay in a conversation
when it gets uncomfortable, there are many rewards to going "far
* You will get more of what you want.
* You will know where you stand and what to expect from others.
* You will feel complete.
* Others will respect you as someone who communicates clearly,
and who expects the best from them.
* Others will tell you the truth, knowing that you will accept
* And most importantly, you will have mastered another skill
that will help you create great relationships.
Your Relationship Coach,
(c) Rinatta Paries, 1998-2001. For more than a decade, master
certified coach Rinatta Paries has been inspiring and coaching
men and women to attract and sustain healthy, long-term
relationships. Having coined the term "relationship coach,"
Paries shares her expertise each week in her free ezine, the
Relationship Coach Newsletter, and through her quizzes, classes
and coaching techniques. Learn more by visiting
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