Communication vs Confrontation
Communication is the basis of human extinct and as a relationship counsellor the main thing I hear from couples in the counselling room is that we do not know how to communicate. From my experience couples think that communication is or leads to confrontation. However, this does not need to be the case.
Communication on a basic level in any relationship is asking for your needs to be met however communication on a more intimate level can really create an intimate connection between two people.
So how do you communicate, I have attached above a piece on communication which I use in couple counselling. It was something that came about from the research John and Julie Gottman done with couples in their institute in America. It is called The Four Horsemen of a Relationship.
As you can see on one side is the words criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Honestly, this is how most people communicate. This way of communicating can lead to or feels like a confrontation and who needs confrontation all the time.
Is there an argument that constantly keeps coming up in your relationship and the same pattern keeps emerging? Does it go something like this; you say something the other person gets defensive, then they or you feel like you’re not been listened to, which leads to sarcastic comments or passive aggressive action and then they walk out? The four words above describe exactly what is happening in that moment, someone feels criticized, which immediately they are triggered to defend themselves, with in turn they feel hurt and ignored, they lash out and then eventually walk out.
However, there is an antidote to these destructive patterns. Firstly, it is important how you express how you feel to another person. We all tend to use the word You when we are in that blaming mode. You did this, you did that … So, what is happening there is that you are accusing the other person of doing something and when someone is being accused, they will automatically become defensive.
Instead, how about using the word I… I hate when you do this, I feel hurt when you do this, all the sudden the tone of criticism has gone out of your words and so the other person does not feel defensive and is willing to listen. Also, in this moment remember the other person is not trying to annoy you by doing something on purpose, this person cares for you they would never want to hurt you, so try to see their behaviour and talk about their behaviour and rather than seeing them as their behaviour.
Another important part of breaking that pattern is to take responsibility for your part of the argument, are you also in the wrong, is what is happening triggering something that has happened in the past and in this moment, you are reminded of this and so you are directing that anger towards the wrong person. This is where you can self sooth and understand.
I know I can hear the words in your head already; “that wont work sure I know what he will do, “I know what she will say”. So, you are a mind reader, couples seem to be the best minder readers of each other. They presume the other person will act the same way as they always did and in fairness they will if you keep doing the same thing of criticism defensive contempt and stonewalling.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result”.
Try it, you never know your partner might surprise you. You could see a whole different side to them.
Communication is something that can bring you and your partner closer together, when you communicate you are turning towards each other. When you communicate about your feelings to each other and how the other persons behaviour makes you feel even if its negative or positive it can really help you and your partner create intimacy. In this climate of lockdown and social distancing and not been able to have physical contact to commemorate or create intimacy we need to learn to use our words.
The article is written by Emma, newly qualified and pre-accredited Counsellor at The DMC Clinic. If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health please contact The DMC Clinic to arrange an appointment.