We've all heard the typical communication advice, like be a good listener and be more open. But with poor communication being one of the top reasons couples split, it's clear that basic advice just won't cut it.
Most people don't realize that their own personal anxieties are what's getting in the way of communicating effectively with their partners.
Personal Anxiety #1: Fear of being wrong
When you're in an argument and your spouse is speaking, are you thinking of a counter argument, waiting for them to take a breath so that you can interrupt?
We've all been there- in the heat of an argument, you're planning your rebuttal. It's a good strategy to prove your point and win the argument. But to have healthy communication, we need to get over our fear of being wrong.
In other words, our personal anxiety of losing an argument and accepting defeat gets in the way of healthily, lovingly solving an issue. Give your partner your full attention, even when you don't like what they're saying. When they're speaking, you have to want to understand. When we go into difficult convos, your goal should be to listen, not to win.
Being a good listener goes beyond sitting quietly and nodding your head. The best kinds of listeners seek clarification to further understand their partner's view of things.
But sometimes we fail to do this because of our personal anxiety of appearing incompetent.
People often avoid asking their spouse to elaborate because they don't want to appear as if they're dim-witted or weren't listening. But interrupting your partner to ask them to further clarify something you're not fully understanding is vital to healthy communication in a relationship.
In other words, don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't be afraid to admit you're having trouble understanding something. And most of all, don't be afraid to actively work to understand your partner's viewpoint as much as possible.
Personal Anxiety #3: Fear of vulnerability/being open
Have you ever been in the situation where you're having a bad day and someone asks you, 'how are you doing?' Most likely, you replied something like, "I'm fine."
Your words said "I'm fine," but your tone, facial expression and body language probably said the opposite. These nonverbal signs are what experts call covert messages, while labeling your spoken words as overt messages. When it comes to communicating with your spouse, your covert and overt messages should always line up.
But sometimes we're not fully truthful with our words, even with the people we're closest to, because of our personal anxiety of vulnerability. We're not always willing to say how we're truly feeling because we shy away from feeling too vulnerable.
When talking with your spouse, look out for moments when your overt and covert messages don't match up. Say what's written on your face.
Another big barrier in emotional, difficult conversations occurs because we fear offending others. We filter what we say so as not to upset people or contradict their views, but when it comes to husbands and wives, this is a dangerous thing to do. You're not protecting your spouse- you're just hurting yourself.
When you filter, you're no longer being 100 percent truthful to your spouse or to yourself. It may sound strange, but you have to be willing to offend your spouse. Of course, you should never intentionally try to offend or hurt them, but it's important to be authentic and true to who you are, even if you know your spouse disagrees. Plus, if you spend the whole conversation trying not to offend each other, you're not going to get anywhere.
One or two of these personal anxieties might sound more familiar than others- that's great! Recognizing our personal anxieties and communication mistakes is the first step to fixing them. Try implementing solutions to those problems you recognize most in yourself during your daily interactions with your love, and soon you'll both be communication masters.