Food for Thought: Skills For Making Your Relationship Work
Any counselor will tell you that one of the most common problems observed when couples come for help is poor communication skills. People get into trouble in their marriages because they have not developed their abilities to listen and communicate.
The things that prevent people from communicating effectively are not knowing how to communicate properly, not taking the time to think through what they want to say or not taking the time to anticipate what your partner may be thinking or feeling.
Other factors may be fear of your partner’s anger or not wanting to hurt your partner’ feelings.
Empathy And Acceptance
People marry because they want to spend the rest of their lives with their partner. They have every hope of growing together and creating a relationship that makes them feel emotionally healthy. Two factors that are necessary for this to happen are empathy and acceptance on the part of both partners.
Empathy is the capacity to put oneself in another’s shoes and understand how the other person views their reality, and how they feel about things.
Demonstrating empathy and acceptance is critical in maintaining a strong relationship. Let’s look next at some communication skills that enable you to create a climate of empathy, acceptance and understanding. First, we will explore a skill called active listening.
Why Active Listening Is A Valuable Skill
Active listening is a valuable skill because it demonstrates you understand what your partner is saying and how he or she is feeling. It means restating in your own words, what the other person has said and is a check on whether your understanding is correct. It demonstrates you are listening and you are interested and concerned.
Active listening does not mean agreeing with the other person. The point is to show your partner that you hear and understand his or her point of view. This is good for your relationship for several reasons. When someone demonstrates that they want to understand what you are thinking and feeling, it feels good and creates good feelings about the other person.
Restating and checking understanding promotes better communication and fewer misunderstandings. Examples of active listening are: “You sound really stumped about how to solve this problem.” “Sounds like you are really worried about Wendy.”
Other Communication Skills
These include asking open ended questions, making summary statements to check understanding, and encouraging your partner to open up. Open ended questions begin with “What was it like.? “How did you feel?” “Tell me more.” Describe in detail.”
Asking these kinds of questions gets the other person involved by giving him or her a chance what they think or know. These questions are designed to encourage your partner to talk. They are useful when the other person is silent or reluctant to elaborate.
Summary statements sum up what you hear your partner saying. They enhance your partner’s self esteem by showing you were carefully listening. It also focuses on facts, not emotions. It helps your partner clarify their own thinking by hearing your summary. These statements eliminate confusion by focusing on the relevant facts and separate the important issues from the trivial.
Business Skills For Marriages
You might be surprise to hear the same skills that help people succeed in business can also be used to build a better marriage. Many of the skills that make businesses run successfully - planning, organizing, and setting goals - also can be applied to running your marriage successfully.
The following are some of the skills that will strengthen a marriage:
- Create an overall vision of what you want your life to be like - consider all life areas.
- Develop a long range strategy.
- Set short range and long range goals.
- Plan the steps that will help you accomplish your goals.
- Organize projects.
- Evaluate progress and results at regular intervals.
- Revise goals as needed.
Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls. She can be contacted at 827-0700.