Here are four effective ways to talk with your partner about whatever is bugging you.
Jennifer has developed a habit of biting her tongue, literally. To avoid tension or an argument with her fiancé, Sheri, Jennifer often physically clamps her mouth shut and remains silent (instead of using a form of effective communication)... even if she has something she'd like to say.
This happens almost every time Sheri's kids are at their house. Jennifer and Sheri have very different expectations about parenting, and Jennifer rarely agrees with what Sheri allows her kids to watch on TV or the computer. She also wants Sheri to ask her kids to pick up after themselves and help with house chores.
But Jennifer keeps all of this to herself. Even though it's her house too, Jennifer doesn't want to interfere with Sheri's decision about how to raise her kids.
Unfortunately, Jennifer reaches a point where she can't bite her tongue any longer. She lets loose with a huge rant about the message Sheri's kids are receiving and the ill-informed and irresponsible people they'll become if things don't change.
These rants ALWAYS lead to arguments and cause Sheri to wonder how they'll make their blended family work in the long-run.
This is an example of what we call "yo-yo communicating." It's also an example of a relationship in trouble, if changes don't start happening soon.
Yo-yo communicating is something many of us have engaged in. We don't do it to cause problems, but to try to prevent them! You know that it's not your business, that you're just being picky or that this is a sore subject for your partner. So you force yourself to stay silent. You might not literally bite your tongue, but you do whatever it takes to not say what's on your mind.
Choosing to remain silent when you're annoyed or irritated isn't always a bad thing. If some resolution doesn't happen, however, and you continue to stuff down how you feel and pretend that everything is great (when it's not), THAT'S when you're going to explode!
THAT'S when the "yo-yo" swings the other direction, and you spew all of that pent up emotion onto your unsuspecting partner. It can be a shock to the one you love because, even if you've been acting "quiet" or "weird," you've not said a word about this until now.
When you have a habit of yo-yo communicating, here's what can happen: Your partner starts to see you as unpredictable and even volatile. He or she begins to mistrust when you agree or say, "I'm fine." Instead of relieving tension and preventing conflict, yo-yo communicating upsets connection and balance in your relationship and can eventually tear the two of you apart.
Try these four alternatives to yo-yo communicating for a more honest, authentic, AND harmonious relationship:
1. Know What The REAL Issue Is
Here's a good rule to follow: Whenever you notice you are irritated or annoyed by something your partner is doing, take some time to understand how you feel. A pause for self-clarity is very different from stuffing down how you really feel.
Go within, and ask yourself what the REAL issue is for you. There may be worries, fears or assertions that lie underneath whatever it is that seems to be bugging you. When you discover what those are, you can communicate far more effectively.
2. Talk About What You DO Want
One of the biggest communication mistakes people make is they focus on what they don't like and on what they don't want to continue. It's helpful to let your partner know that you're concerned with his or her spending habits, but choose to focus on the new behaviors you want to see, such as discussing big purchases or setting aside a certain amount each month for savings. Resist the urge to rant or to defend your position.
3. Really Listen To What's True For Your Partner
Carry with you the reminder that there isn't just one "right" answer. Even if you feel passionately about this issue, really listen to what your partner has to say. Open up to his or her truth and to understanding as best as you can.
Know that to listen and understand isn't the same as "giving in" or abandoning what you want. Listening is just that. Listening. It's about showing your partner that, even if the two of you don't agree, you respect and care about him or her.
4. Be Team- And Solution-oriented
And when you really listen to what's true for your partner, you send the message that you don't want to be adversaries, but you DO want to find a solution that works for both of you. The more you can shift your approach to finding the best next step together as a team, the closer you and your partner will become.
It's not always easy to set aside ego or pride, but the results are worth the effort. Keep asking yourself questions like: "What's most important here?" and "What's possible in this situation?"
When you're willing to get creative and stay open to what's truly the best solution, obstacles become more manageable, and the two of you will stay connected, no matter what is going on.
Find out which words and phrases push your partner away and which ones keep you close in our free Magic Relationship Words video.