Couples, Never Fight About A Miscommunication Again (Here’s How)

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Effective Communication Skills In A Relationship To Avoid Misunderstandings
Love

In a relationship, when there's a misunderstanding between a couple, the best solution is better communication, but how do you get there without offending your partner?

I read a quote on Google from a counselor from California who works on men's "stuff", with a focus on communication skills between men and women. Somehow, the statement: "I am only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand" rubbed me the wrong way.

RELATED: 8 Ways The Happiest Couples Communicate With Each Other

As a couple's therapist, I'm fully aware that statements like this often lead to major arguments in relationships. I prefer to think there is an additional step of responsibility in effective communication, namely, "I am not only responsible for what I say; I'm also responsible to check whether you understood what I said."

Knowing the importance of communication in your relationship means realizing that different people have different communication styles.

Some take too much responsibility for their partner's reactions to what they say. But, listeners need to take responsibility as well.

However, in order to learn how to communicate effectively and be a good communicator, it is important to not only try to be as clear as possible but also to check if the other person understood what you meant to say.

There are many reasons for misunderstandings between couples. The other person may have been momentarily distracted. How many times have you been caught off guard in the middle of something at work or with your children when your partner calls to tell you something?

Last night, I saw a client who had come for hypnosis for smoking cessation. She left my office, but her husband who had given the therapy as a gift to his wife, came to the door to give me a check. In the one minute interim, just as the client's husband knocked on my door, my husband called on the phone.

I thought he said, "Come upstairs now." I told him I could not and hung up. When I finished, I went upstairs and Jerry had disappeared! I called out but got no response.

So, I called him on the phone. When he answered, he said he was on a ladder outside, about to go up on the roof. I asked him why he needed me to come upstairs. He said that he had told me he was going up and just wanted me to know. Obviously, in my hurry, I heard something entirely different.

This is a trivial example of how communications can be misunderstood, which did not lead to any harm. He must have said, "I'm going up," and I heard, "Come up." Because I hung up the phone quickly to speak with the client, my husband did not get a chance to check if I understood that he just wanted me to be aware that he needed to check the roof.

As a therapist, I check frequently to be sure that I communicate with my clients clearly and that they understand what I say. At times, even with clear checks, people misunderstand.

When I give them my Dream Positioning System (DPS) assignment that helps them to figure out how to accomplish their dreams and goals in life, I am very specific about what they need to do. They are asked to work starting with the most distant future goals and then move backwards towards their action plans or activities which they could do tomorrow.

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Even though I am very explicit and check whether they understand, some people come back the next week and have started with their action plans. Sometimes a misunderstanding like this has implications and could be interpreted as a fear of planning for the future.

Another time when both people need to take more responsibility is when communication is laden with emotional undertones.

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A couple I am working with is getting married soon. They have been dating for some time, love each other and get along well dealing with all kinds of challenges. It is the man's second marriage and the woman's third. They both have baggage from previous relationships.

Whenever the need for a pre-nuptial agreement or a will come up, to protect the husband-to-be's family business, his children, and his future wife, they have trouble speaking about it. He is generous and making all kinds of arrangements for their union to be equal and shared. He plans to provide for her and her children if anything happens to him.

She, however, worries she could be hurt like she was by her ex-husband. In this instance, they both need help speaking and clarifying what they are communicating to one another.

In emotionally loaded situations like this, people benefit from having a therapist help clarify and work on the past operating and interfering in the present.

When it comes to good communication skills, both parties need to take responsibility for speaking as clearly as possible and checking to see if the other person understood.

What are your thoughts? Is there joint responsibility or is it just one person's duty to understand the communications?

Couples therapy is a great place to learn and enhance communication skills. Feel free to ask for help if misunderstandings occur.

RELATED: 3 'Love Language' Communication Skills That Will Make Your Relationship Last

Dr. Barbara Lavi, PsyD is a licensed clinical psychologist, founder of ACT Now (Active, Creative, Time-sensitive) Psychotherapy & author of the bestselling book, The Wake Up and Dream Challenge. You can learn more about Dr. Lavi on her website, ACT Now Psychotherapy.

This article was originally published at The Wake Up and Dream Catalyst blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.