It’s no secret that healthy communication is important for any kind of relationship. One of its superpowers is pre-empting conflicts and nipping problems in the bud. Thoughts and opinions are out in the open. Thus, clear and direct communication serves to reduce the chances of misunderstanding and misinterpretation.
But what about those times when the negativity has already set in? If friction is already in play, can you communicate your way out of that situation?
The short answer: yes. Honest communication has a second gear for such situations. Longer answer? That’s what the rest of this post can help answer.
How Negativity and Friction Impacts Communication
There are counterproductive patterns that emerge under these circumstances. Renowned therapist and researcher, John Gottman, calls them the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” He’s talking about criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt.
- Criticism: opting to attack your partner’s character (usually as a method of deflection) rather than addressing the point of contention.
- Defensiveness: choosing to protect your ego by playing the victim.
- Stonewalling: the passive-aggressive choice to withdraw from communication.
- Contempt: when you demean, mock, and/or belittle your partner for having the audacity not to agree with you.
4 Way You Can Communicate Through Negativity and Friction
1. Respect and Appreciation
It may sound obvious but, in practice, it can be challenging. Everyday life has a knack for whittling away our patience. And who better to take it out on than the person most likely to let it slide (at least, for a while)? As a couple, commit to creating a foundation of respect and gratitude, regardless of the difficulties you face. This can initially manifest in simple but crucial steps like being mindful of your body language and tone of voice.
2. Timing and Pace
Very few disagreements must be dealt with immediately and quickly. Practice some patience. Some times are far better than others to have a heavy discussion. Also, if things begin to escalate, there is much value in taking in a break before any of the four horsemen ride into the frame.
3. Trade Blame for Accountability
In some cases, one of you is more responsible for the dilemma at hand. Just as easily, that scenario can flip next time. It’s not about keeping score or “winning.” The goal is a peaceful resolution. Therefore, resist the urge to blame.
If it’s you who needs to do so, offer an authentic apology and ask for forgiveness. In those times when your partner is more at fault, you have the right to request an authentic apology. Once it has been delivered, it becomes your turn to practice sincere forgiveness.
4. “Communicate” Through Your Choices All Day Long
The odds are that you and your partner aren’t always in conflict. Those moments of peace and agreement provide you both with opportunities to deepen your bond through simple gestures like:
- Speaking kindly and displaying basic manners
- Subtle gestures of intimacy like handholding, compliments, love letters, eye contact, and smiles
- Sharing moments of laughter and humor as frequently as possible
- Letting your partner know how often you “randomly” think of them on a daily basis
These gestures — and others like them — are a form of communication. They lay the groundwork for feeling less rancor in times of dispute.
When You Reach an Impasse
Inevitably, couples feel like they’ve run into a brick wall. It can be painful to even try communicating about communication. Couples counseling is the safe space you need to work on this stalemate in the presence of a skilled and unbiased mediator. You will identify patterns and cultivate new approaches. Start this healing process by scheduling a free consultation today.
Getting Started With Counseling in Lakewood & Longmont Colorado
We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation. You can schedule your appointment via phone, email, or the contact page on our website. We offer both in-person and online counseling. We’re open to whichever option you feel more comfortable with. We look forward to hearing from you!