You can’t understand why your boyfriend or husband claims you don’t show him any respect. You’re baffled that your wife or girlfriend says you’re “impossible” to please.
None of what your partner says makes sense to you because, in your mind, you’re always loving and supportive. As much as you try to figure out how to use more effective communication skills in order to communicate better with the person you love, nothing works, because you don’t really know where the heart of the problem lies.
How you can save your marriage or fix what seems to be a broken relationship if you don’t even know what you’re doing wrong?
Before you totally discount what your special someone alleges, take some time to observe your the common words and habits and think about the way you’ve been communicating.
It could be that a certain 3-letter word is creeping into your comments to and about your partner, and this average, ordinary word is contributing to the increasing distance and disconnection in your relationship.
This seemingly harmless word is “but”.
Unfortunately, it’s commonly used by both men and women all of the time in casual and more serious conversations.
This word not only stands in the way of effective communication between you and your partner, but also, ultimately, your capacity to have a long-lasting, healthy and happy relationship.
Here are just a few examples of the way “but” can creep into conversation and destroy your best intentions:
- “I love you, but I wish you were more romantic.”
- “I respect you, but you do have a tendency to be wishy-washy.”
- “You are beautiful, but you’ve put on a few pounds lately.”
- “I want your input, but here’s what I’ve decided to do … “
The “but” in each of these statements essentially wipes away the compliment or appreciation that precedes it.
“But” is almost always a word of exclusion and negation.
Many of us use it to deliver what we really think with an intention to soften the harshness. Despite this attempt, the emphasis is on what we’re disappointed about or critical of.
Your partner sees right through this. He or she will mostly hear whatever comes after the “but” and is likely to feel confused, hurt and angry because of it. This is why trying to communicate better has, up until this point, failed.
Luckily, there is hope! You just have to watch your “buts”.
Try this experiment for two or three days: Listen closely to what you say to and about your partner.
When you hear yourself using the word “but” — or even just thinking it — pay attention to these three things:
- How you’re feeling
- What you really want to say
- How your partner reacts once you’ve said it
If you notice that you have a habit of including a lot of “buts” in your speech, you’re not alone.
With any damaging habit, it’s necessary to first notice what you’re doing. That is the simple first act toward saving your marriage or solving your relationship problems.
Next, learn how to say it a new way.
Get curious about what it is you’ve been really wanting to say to your partner but haven’t known how to express effectively. This could be something you’ve been hinting at and hedging around, or maybe it’s something you’ve already said, but not tactfully.
Your “buts” may also sneak in when you made a request or share your opinion, then don’t seen much follow through or positive change from your partner as a result.
Sometimes, promises or agreements are made but then ignored. Nobody wants to be a nag or a complainer, but …
The point here isn’t that you’re doing anything wrong or bad by peppering your talk with “buts.” It’s that “buts” rarely invite follow through or engaged, active listening from your partner. The “buts”, in essence, shut down your best efforts at effective communication.
As unfair as it may seem that you have to do anything different when it’s your partner who is stubbornly clinging to their ways, if you want to see a change, there will be times when you simply have to take the lead.
Finding new, more productive ways to communicate is a way to do that.
Before engaging in a conversation with your partner about something you would like to see change, experiment, in your mind or on paper, with different words and phrasing you can you use to explain how you feel in a way that is authentic and true for you and may be easier for your partner to hear.
It’s not necessary — or advisable — for you to fake or deny how you feel or what it is you want.
Instead, focus in on your priorities related to the situation and come up with ways you can phrase your requests to clearly and effectively communicate what it is you do want.
As you learn to improve your communication skills by using more effective phrasing, follow these helpful guidelines:
1. Make specific requests
Be clear and precise in explaining terms of action and timeliness.
2. Speak confidently
Ask for what you want without apologizing for or second guessing your wishes and needs.
3. Be realistic
Keep your request doable, and, if necessary, break it into achievable steps.
4. Stay focused on resolving the issue at hand
Don’t allow yourself to get side-tracked by secondary issues or questions of who’s to blame.
5. Keep an open mind
Be open to feedback and possible discussion, but know your non-negotiables.
6. Express appreciation for what works
Acknowledge the improvements you do see.
Above all, remember to focus in on your priorities related to the situation, come up with requests that clearly explain what you want … and leave the “buts” out of it.
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