Communication is one of the most important aspects of a relationship and can sometimes become more difficult during stressful life events/periods, such as dealing with infertility. There are several “ground rules” that can be important when working to improve communication skills.
1. Carve out a specific time and place to have a discussion, which is relatively free from distractions (including phones and screens!). It can be important to plan this in advance and to make it a space that is comfortable for all the parties involved.
2. Employ “Speaker Listener Technique.” This is a manner of speaking where one individual has the “floor” and is able to speak on any specific topic for a few minutes (keeping it short is important) without any interruptions from the other individual. When they have finished, the other partner will then repeat back or paraphrase what was said without adding any other comments, judgment, interpretations, etc. After they have done this, they will check in with the other person as to whether there was anything that was missed, or said inaccurately while they repeated it back. The roles will then be reversed with the initial speaker now being the listener. This exercise is helpful in that it allows for both parties to speak without fear of interruption and to also practice the art of listening without interpretation or judgment.
3. Use “I” statements as much as possible and refrain from blaming or accusations. Use respectful language. Example: “I feel angry and worried when you do not call to tell me you will be home late.”
4. Understand that agreement and validation are not the same. Many times an individual only needs to feel heard and validated and have the experience of being understood, even if their partner does not necessarily agree with them.
5. Remember the difference between intent and impact. It may be important to acknowledge the impact a statement had on an individual’s feelings whether or not it was intentional.
6. Difficult conversations are ongoing and can’t be “solved” in one sitting. They may need to be revisited several times before a complete understanding is reached. Plan a regular time to continue the conversation.
7. Problem-solving or coming up with a concrete solution may be the end result of a conversation, but often one of the most important outcomes to a conversation with a loved one is simply feeling heard and understanding the feelings/viewpoint of the other person.
Having a heartfelt conversation can be tough. Being kind, respectful, and following these 7 steps will help you effectively communicate while being mindful of everyone’s feelings. Need a little more help? Read this blog post for more communication help.