Tag Archives: better listening

Read This if You EVER Have Conflict in Your Marriage

Well, that should be all of you, then, because we ALL have conflict in our relationships. (If you don’t, that’s also a problem. Read Avoid Divorce with 5:1 Ratio.) And hopefully we have learned that not all conflict is bad, because it can help us improve situations where one or both of us isn’t feeling satisfied. Conflict helps us clear the air. That being said, conflict in marriage sometimes really stinks. We can’t wait to get over it, and we know we can’t always avoid it.

Let’s assume you aren’t expecting too much of your spouse, and realize your spouse can’t meet all your needs. You’ve already tried the four no-talking tools to boost your relationship. But you continue to quarrel. Here’s another idea to try during a disagreement. The suggestion is followed by some strong relationship research reminders thanks to all those love doctors out there.

The first tip is from personal experience. There are times when talking things out just get too heated, or you don’t feel like you are expressing yourself in the way you mean to. Or your spouse keeps interrupting to give his/her side (that’s a no-no, folks). Anyway, I’ve found typing out an email expressing my feelings or frustrations is sometimes easier than speaking them. (I’ve also written notes, but typing is faster for me.) I can read them to make sure I’m saying what I mean and using “I” language rather than accusatory “you” language. Then my spouse has time to think before responding, to consider my feelings and either email back or talk to me about it. Usually after a few emails back and forth, we have come to an agreement or at least have acknowledged where each of us is coming from. I wouldn’t recommend texting for the same purpose, because we  don’t think long enough before sending texts, and they are written for speed more than for clarity of communication. Even if you want to have the discussion in person, it may help you to jot down your key points or concerns.

Whether you are writing or speaking about an area of conflict, remember that how you begin a fight determines whether it’s harmful or productive. Choose the right time and place, and plan your opening statement carefully.

Even if you are not at a crisis stage right now, think about how you would react in a crisis. Remain calm and try to keep the balance of power in your relationship on even terms (more on this in a later post).

Finally, remember that listening will get you much further than talking. With the right listening skills, you can learn to reach your spouse on any topic. Read 10 Great Tips to Get Through to Your Spouse for some insightful strategies to reach out to children, friends or marriage partners.

Have you ever worked through a conflict by writing down your concerns? Did it work well or fail? Do you have any other useful conflict management strategies to share?

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10 Great Tips to Get Through to Your Spouse (Part II)

Continuing with our last post with tips from Dr. Mark Goulston’s book, “Just Listen,” here are six more:

Create a Transformational Moment—Much of our daily communication involves negotiation, such as who will handle what aspects of a work project, who will pick up the kids or handle dinner. To take your communication to a deeper level and hear what people are truly about, ask them a transformational question. Examples might be: What kind of influence did your father have on you? What do you love about your profession? What is something fun or important you and I should do in the next five years?

Be More Interested Than Interesting—Instead of being concerned about sounding intelligent or funny, focus all your attention on the person in front of you. Ask probing questions. Don’t tell your stories. Be interested in them. For example, ask your spouse about a recent work project or how a conflict with a friend was resolved. Then just listen. You can usually have a greater impact on someone by asking a thoughtful question and giving them the opportunity to share than by telling a great story.

Make People Feel Valued—After people feel heard, they want to feel valued, especially by their loved ones. Many spouses feel they are tolerated more than loved as the years go by. Tell your spouse how they have changed your life for the better. Tell your children how much you value them in your life.

Fill in the Blank—When you are unsure of someone’s motives or feelings, ask, “You feel that way because _______” or “You would like me to do _______.” (Say nothing with hand gesture palm up giving them the opportunity to answer.)

Power Thank You—Acknowledge a specific action that was helpful to you; note the great effort required. Tell the person (publicly if possible) what a difference this action made for you. A written letter or email is valuable to people, but a spoken power thank-you is nice.

Power Apology—A bad apology is probably worse than not apologizing at all. The proper steps include expressing remorse for the specific behavior, showing restitution, rehabilitation (not doing the bad thing any longer) and a request for forgiveness.

 Do you use any of these techniques, or do you know a great listener whose listening skills you admire?

(In case you were wondering, I received no compensation of any kind for recommending this book.)