Communication & The Impact It Has on Relationships
In every relationship, there will inevitably be conflict. How the couple handles that conflict however, is of utmost focus and value. Although each relationship is unique, there are a number of important aspects of communication that should be followed in order to ensure some level of understanding, empathy and connection, even during the worst of adversity.
Some basic communication techniques that can be highly effective:
- Show appreciation daily
- Listen actively
- Practice positivity
- Embrace the power of time out
- Make physical contact regularly
- Use “I” statements
- Ask questions
Negative Communication Patterns
There are some communication styles that are indicative of an unhealthy dynamic and are cause for concern. These four styles, recognized by John Gottman, founder of The Gottman Method, can be extremely destructive to a relationship.
Criticism is different than providing constructive critiques or voicing an opinion. Critiques and opinions are usually present as a result of a specific situation, being brought up in order to find resolution to a problem. Criticism however, can feel like a blatant attack on someone’s character and who they are at their core. There are generalizations made about who they are, how they behave and what is “wrong” with them.
When partners are critical of one another, they fall into a pattern of behavior where the victim feels assaulted, rejected and hurt. This can lead to a more damaging issue called contempt.
In moments of contempt, we are no longer speaking to one another with respect, compassion or love. Instead, we mock with sarcasm, ridicule, call names and mimic. The intention behind contempt is to make the other person feel disliked and worthless.
Contempt is fueled by long standing negative thoughts about their partner, which ultimately come to the surface during times of adversity.
Where there is contempt, there is minimal chance for healthy connection.
Defensiveness appears as a result of criticism. Each of us have been defensive at times, but this behavior prohibits active listening and accountability. Instead, it breeds excuses and arguments.
Although it is understandable to want to defend yourself, this type of response rarely achieves the desired goal. It only escalates the tension and stifles an opportunity for healthy conflict management.
Stonewalling is usually a response to contempt within a relationship. It occurs when an individual withdraws from the interaction, shuts down and simply stops responding to their partner. It can seem as though they are tuning the other person out, turning away, pretending to be busy, or finding distractions.
Stonewalling occurs after repetitive arguments that lead nowhere. It is an unhealthy habit that is difficult to break.
How Couples Counseling Can Help:
The four unhealthy types of communication listed above can be truly toxic for a relationship. Without change, they can lead to its demise. Couples counseling works to reverse these patterns of behavior; helping a couple understand the root cause of their issues and working to establish more effective ways to communicate that reflects respect, love and compassion for one another.