Relationships can be some of the most incredible experiences of our lives. They can also be hard.
You want to feel connected to your partner, but it feels like there is a wall up between the two of you.
You want to understand your partner, but sometimes it feels like you’re speaking two different languages.
You have the same argument again and again. You can predict exactly how it will go, yet can never come to a resolution.
You may be facing a crisis, like infidelity, in your relationship and you’re trying to figure out if you even want to stay.
Maybe you find yourself listening to your partner, but focusing more on what you want to say next. And maybe you find yourself holding back on what you want to say out of a fear that it will cause a bigger issue.
One of the most important skills in relationships is effective communication. We may not ordinarily have trouble communicating and exchanging ideas or information with our partner, but find that when difficult situations come up, we can’t seem to get on the same page.
Most of us are guilty of these mistakes. In fact, these kinds of communication challenges can sometimes become so ingrained that many of us don’t even notice when we’re guilty of them. However, the consequences of ineffective communication take a toll. Feeling unheard can lead to resentment, frustration, and pain.
I want to point out that, sometimes, the best communication will still end with the acknowledgment: “We disagree.” But that’s OK‐it’s far better than the alternative: “I’m right, and you’re wrong.”
The ability to express your own ideas effectively is only half of what it takes to be a good communicator. Listening is the second half. This means more than simply hearing words. It means hearing, thinking, interpreting, and striving to understand. If we’re thinking about the next thing we want to say, we aren’t really listening. We’re just hearing.
Reflections are a powerful tool to improve communication between you and your partner. Using a technique called reflection can quickly help you become a better listener. When reflecting, you will repeat back what your partner has just said to you in your own words. Those who haven’t used reflections fear that it’ll seem like they’re just parroting the other person without contributing to the conversation. However, reflections typically result in a positive response.
Those who haven’t used reflections fear that it’ll seem like they’re just parroting the other person without contributing to the conversation. However, reflections typically result in a positive response.
So, what do reflections actually do? They act as confirmation that we heard, and more importantly, understand, what our partner has said. Reflections validate a person’s feelings by showing that we get it.
Often, a concern I hear is that it might seem like a reflection would kill a conversation ‐ there’s no new question to answer. Paradoxically, though, the opposite is generally true. Reflections encourage more sharing because our partner can trust that we are listening.
Learning to use reflections does take practice. As you first begin to practice it’s typical for reflections to feel a bit forced. But if you implement reflections regularly, they’ll quickly start to feel natural once you and your partner begin to notice how helpful the responses are. Oh, and start with less serious or neutral topics, at least in the beginning!
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