How To Communicate Effectively & Work As A Team In Your Relationship

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man and woman using effective communication in relationship
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Learning how to communicate effectively is more important now than ever, considering that this is a time of great change and many unknowns with an almost apocalyptic sense of danger around us.

When you practice effective communication, you're ensuring you have control over a situation and keeping any unnecessary misunderstandings from clouding everyone's judgment.

You can also keep from spreading fear when you make sure your communication is informed.

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Fear won’t be cured by closeness and connection, but it does provide a sense of comfort, an illusion of safety, and is a powerful distraction.

If your communication style could use some grooming, what would be a better time to learn to avoid inflammatory speaking styles and communicate with clarity, purpose, and tact then during quarantine?

You can practice effective communication by recognizing the wrong thing to say and replying with kindness and understanding instead.

Phrases you should never say:

  • ”What's your problem?” (Very cranky.)
  • "You don't listen to me..." or, "You fly off the handle when I speak." (You're fanning the flame.)
  • "Calm down." (Guaranteed: They'll be more upset than ever.)
  • "You don't care about my feelings..." (Puts them on the defensive, and they will be exonerating themselves instead of taking care of you.)
  • "Use your brain," or, “Be logical." (Patronizing.)
  • "You are an idiot, heartless, a nag, etc." (Creates distance. Character assassination is not good foreplay.)
  • Anything in a lecturing, complaining, or whining tone. It's pompous, manipulative, and demotivating.
  • "Always," orm "Never..." (Even the worst of us get it right sometimes.)
  • "I can't talk to you about anything important." And then cry, sulk, rage, or withdraw. (Not fair.)

Phrases you should say, instead:

  • "Is there something you want to discuss or change?”
  • "I care about talking to you and appreciate that you will listen to me.”
  • "Something must have happened, can you tell me?”
  • "I know that you love me, but when you ____, I feel ____, and prefer that we could____. Is that OK with you?”
  • "I'm not being clear. Please tell me what you did hear, and then I’ll explain it better.”
  • "I appreciate your awareness, concern, and caring about our relationship. Could we start over?”
  • Hold hands, make eye contact, keep in the now, and speak as though you are addressing a peer.
  • "Would you do me a favor?" Then state your present complaint — no past, no future.
  • State what you want or need without making them bad for not having already delivered it.

RELATED: The 4-Part Exercise That Is Key To Effective, Zero-Arguing Communication

Good, effective communication responses sound like:

  • "I want your help," or, “I would like to tell you," using a neutral tone of voice.
  • "I want to hear what you have to say and will be calm or ask to table the discussion until I am able to communicate better.”
  • "I don't know that I can right now, but would you hold me, listen, or __ .”
  • "I must not have shown you as well as I could, but I do care. Please give me another chance.”
  • "I think you mean_____ — just tell me what I've missed or misunderstood.”
  • When words fail, a logical, heartfelt, and succinct email might be in order.
  • "What can I do for you?" Act friendlier than you feel.
  • "That's something I can correct.” Do not defend yourself.
  • "Whenever you're ready, I want to hear how to help you."

Make sure you look at the person talking and stay rooted to the spot.

Taking a non-emergency phone call, typing, and checking messages is hurtful and makes you seem disinterested.

To offset listening difficulties, try holding hands. It may feel awkward, but it keeps you connected literally and figuratively. Breaks may be needed, but reschedule before you agree to them.

No one needs the all too familiar feeling that you've had this conflict again and again and again.

Our new normal is extremes. It’s like one big Groundhog’s Day re-watch, and weariness has reached new heights. It’s like the times when you wake up pre-REM-sleep and decide to paint a room, pre-cook dinner, and get a jump on every work project imaginable, and then don’t.

No one is so introverted they would have signed on for prolonged quarantine — two weeks, yes, maybe three, but indefinitely, absolutely not this. Extroverts and introverts alike prefer choices and freedom.

In your search for effective communication, you're likely worried because you feel your intimacy with your partner — perhaps even family and friends — has weakened.

This has created either a deepened appreciation of one’s "quaran-team," and admiration for your unrealized strength in handling the hard stuff. Perhaps you're having a stronger desire for immediate escape, as well.

Stress can interfere with your understanding of how to effectively communicate with those around you, and it's important to practice understanding and forgiveness more than ever.

High stress is not a natural motivator for kindness, so it's likely that you and those around you are making a lot of mistakes.

Better communication is needed now and will be always useful for intimacy now and in the future. Whether you keep the one you are with or will say goodbye when the pandemic is over, now is the time to find your voice.

Speak up for what you want, listen to yourself, and hear others.

Without self-revealing, you can’t be understood. If you don’t feel understood, you won’t feel love.

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Dr. Janet Page is a psychotherapist working with individuals, couples, and groups in New York City and Atlanta. For more information, visit her website.