In my last blog, “Misunderstanding Communication Styles Between Gender”, I spoke about how different styles of communication between men and women create misunderstanding and conflict in intimate relationships. Today I want to focus on strategies that both genders can adopt to enhance communication within their relationship.
An Open Mindset: Assume Nothing!
The first strategy is to develop an open mind set to yourself and your partner. We often assume and take for granted that other people know what we are trying not communicate. In couples counselling I have become all too aware how this is simply often not the case, and especially in the context of intimate relationship. Perhaps that is why so much blame is often thrown around in relationships. People are trying to communicate information that is dear to their hearts, and the other person seems to attack them for it. Often that person is not intending to attack their partner (unless they are already hurt and are trying to hurt them). Rather they are often just trying to communicate and be understood with no avail! Generally people do not go into relationships to hurt and hate the person they say they love. Conflict in intimate relationships is usually the result of a whole lot of misunderstanding.
As for the person who is aiming to hurt their partner, that strategy never works. A rule of thumb in intimate relationships is “if one person wins an argument, they both lose!”
So keeping an open mind, not only about the content of what your partner is saying, but also the process of how they are saying it, can help cultivate a shared understanding between both members of the couple.
Mindfulness Practice: Cultivating Self Awareness
The second strategy is mindfulness practice. We can open our mind about what and how our partner is communicating, but we also have to watch our own style of communication. We often do not reflect on or take notice of how we are communicating or what we are actually saying. Often we are so busy in the midst of unconsciously reacting in intimate relationship, that we simply do not practice the awareness required to successfully navigate through the minefield of relationship. However, intimate relationship does not have to be a minefield! Through mindfulness we can learn to witness thoughts, feelings and actions that arise in response to our partners. We can do this for both pleasant and unpleasant emotional reactions. So mindfulness is an important ingredient to conscious relationships, by helping people to break free from their unconscious reactive patterns. [Feel free to subscribe to my 10 days of Mindfulness Tips & Audio Mediations … it is a free subscription]
One thing I love about Taoist philosophy is that they promote intimate relationship as a conscious daily practice. It is amazing that in the West couples can ‘stay together’ for decades and know nothing about cultivating conscious practice in intimate relationship. It is no surprise that they end up in psychotherapy when the children leave home. They have been existing together in the same geographical location however, they were not really participating in intimate relationship. They may not have even had an interesting conversation with each each other for fifteen years. So cultivating mindfulness practice in conscious relationship can help enhance the connection between both members of the couple.
Honour Ourselves and Each Other
Besides understanding different styles of communication and cultivating conscious awareness of self through mindfulness practice, the third important strategy underlying communication in intimate relationship is to consciously set the intention behind the communication. Good will between both partners is essential to effective communication in conscious relationship. We could call it ‘goals’ or ‘agenda’ but I call it intention because it embraces feeling into the conscious and unconscious currents underneath the communication.
Setting an intention involves really checking out our own intent behind our communication. For example, I might actually say, “you never listen to me” or “why do you always push the point?” But what am I really trying to say? Your partner may hear blame or criticism when what you may really want to say is… “I feel really hurt and frustrated because I don’t feel understood. What is happening between us in our communication that we mis-understand each other so much?”
Honouring ourselves and each other is about checking out our intention with compassion and understanding for our patterns. It is about giving ourselves and our partner the respect to listen deeply rather than react out of our emotional pain. It is about regularly carving time out of the day to pay attention to, and cultivate, real connection with our partners. It is also about knowing ourselves, and standing in our truth solidly with compassion for self and other. It is about self-value and honest communication, while considering our partners perspective.
So here are those strategies again:
- Have an open mindset towards yourself and your partner
- Practice mindfulness to step out of reactive patterns
- Honour yourself and your partner through positive intention
Conscious intimate relationship is all about co-creating connection in love. It involves regular practice which is as important as maintaining your physical health, parenting your children or paying your bills. These strategies in communication are the cornerstone of creating conscious relationship. Learning and adopting them as everyday habits could enhance the quality of your relationship.
In what ways could these strategies help enhance your relationship?