Have you ever wondered why some arguments seem to go on and on without any clear resolution? Maybe it is because one person burns out and gives in to the other’s perspective or maybe it is because each partner shuts down and decides to no longer communicate. Neither of these outcomes seems to be productive or positive in nature and likely involve some degree of miscommunication and invalidation. Effective communication can lessen these seemingly never-ending arguments and take them from unbearable to bearable in a few short steps. First, when you are in a heightened emotional state, avoid having serious or important discussions. Your emotions are likely to cloud your mind and your judgment and you may say something that you will later regret once your emotions have cooled off. Secondly, avoid sarcasm, dragging up the past, negative comparisons and threats. Although these strategies may seem tempting to utilize, they often further fuel the defensive cycle and end in frustration or hurt. It can be especially tempting for individuals to utilize such means of communicating if they have had poor communication modeled to them, such as in the case of two parents attacking each other’s ability to parent in front of their children. The good news is, communication skills can be improved at any point in one’s life through little fixes like those mentioned above.
Perhaps the most important tool in learning effective communication is using “I” messages and avoiding “You” messages. Messages that begin with or frequently integrate the word “You” such as in the case of “You always” or “You never,” can make the other person feel judged. Instead, speak from your own perspective and communicate your emotions clearly. For example, one might say “I feel [emotion] when [an action that leads to the emotion]. I would prefer if [action you want].” This more likely to diffuse hostility and encourage open communication that gets straight to the point without hurting the other persons feelings. When communication is clear, it is effective.