#1: “When do I silence myself?”
Notice which situations seem to cause you to clam up and become silent. What triggers your fear that your partner will get angry, withdraw or even leave if you admit to how you really feel? The more you can observe your own patterns, the easier it will be to support yourself and do something different in those challenging moments.
#2: “What do I need to say?”
Make private time for yourself and think about a recent (or recurring) situation when you were either wishy-washy about what you thought or didn’t speak at all. Find out what it is you really wanted to say at that time and acknowledge it to yourself.
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Really listen for your need behind the unspoken words. Let’s say you bit back a request that your partner stop leaving his dirty socks strewn around the house. Maybe your need is for him to work with you to keep the house tidier. Try to get to the core of what you’d like to say.
#3: “What do I fear will happen if I speak up?”
As you identified what it is you’d really like to say and what your needs are around this subject, you may have experienced worry, anxiety or fear. Now, as you are by yourself, explore what it is you are afraid of. What do you believe will happen if you speak up?
Gently ask yourself if you have any reliable evidence to back up your fears. If you don’t, then perhaps it’s time to let that fear go. If you do, then maybe it’s time to decide whether it’s wise for you to stay in the relationship. Is this a healthy situation for you?
#4: “What do I hope will happen if I speak up?”
Now, shift your focus to what you’ll possibly gain by breaking your silence. What are the benefits of letting your partner know that you really think/feel/want ____? It could be a resolution to a long-standing point of tension. It may be a change you’ve been wishing for. It could be a chance for you two to move closer together in trust and mutual understanding.
#5: “How can I speak from MY truth?”
There are no guarantees that your partner will like or agree with what you have to say when you do speak up. He or she might feel angry, hurt or disappointed and express that. Or not. But, you won’t know if you choose to remain silent. Your underlying need will remain unmet.
One way to promote connection, even when communicating about a contentious subject, is to make sure you’re speaking YOUR truth. Choose words that show you are talking about your point of view, your preference and what you want and not assuming or projecting onto your partner. For example, say “I feel...” instead of “You make me feel....”
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Another truth you can speak to your partner is your desire to work together. You can encourage the one you love to stay open and really listen to you as you make it known that your relationship connection is important and you want to find a solution you both can be happy with.
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