If You're Saying This 'Red Flag' Phrase To Your Partner, There's A Problem

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Strong relationships need good communication between partners. That's a given. But sometimes, even the best communicators find themselves stuck. 

One red flag that you may be stuck in cycle of poor communication is the phrase "You can't talk to me like that!"

These are words of complete frustration, uttered in the face of a communication defeat. Why would you or your partner ever feel the need to say these words?

Likely it's because one or both of you are not listening to the other and neither of you knows how to get the other to listen.

Think about it. We generally aren’t very careful listeners.

We listen to the speaker with one ear and to the running commentary in our head with the other. That is, we're simultaneously listening to the speaker and to our own interpretation of what is being said.

(Did you just agree or disagree? That’s a judgment you added from inside your own head.)

RELATED: 7 Phrases Couples In The Strongest Relationships Use Regularly

How do you have good communication in order to have a strong relationship?

This listening-in-one-ear-and-out-the-other is not an effective approach to strong communication. What’s worse is that you may tend to assume the worst of others.

Other people have screwed up before and you've been hurt. You remember those injustices and keep them close. You're ever vigilant, always prepared to defend yourself against others.

Your proclivity to listen to the voice in your head and emotionally protect yourself makes person-to-person communication not-so-easy under the best of circumstances.

When you or your partner senses a complete lack of understanding, you make it personal.

You get louder. You get more vehement. You become desperate to make yourself understood, especially to a person who matters to you.

The person who feels unheard can reach the point of explosion. Words come flying like needles, delivered with the intent to bring clarity.

Those words can dredge up injustices from the past, changing what started as a conversation into an ugly mass of accusations that have nothing to do with the subject at hand.

There's no more effective way to end communication.

How do you change the communication context?

You’re saying, "You can’t say that to me."

If you feel yourself launching into it, stop right there! Take a deep breath. Breathe. Breathe again. Pause. See that you are not really injured, no matter how much your feelings hurt.

(If necessary, prompt the voice in your head with "Sticks and stones" and listen until it reaches "words will never hurt me.")

Acknowledge to yourself that you're not being heard. In acknowledging this, your body may start to relax and ease out of that "fight" response.

Now, start listening. You and your partner are not hearing each other. This doesn’t make it an inevitable fight. But, somebody has to listen first and it might as well be you.

Start listening and be gracious about it. Listen without judgment to whatever your partner is saying to you. Accept that there may be some truth being spoken.

After you’ve truly heard your partner, then respond authentically. Don’t respond by speaking the automatic, crappy response zinging around your head. Respond to what was actually said.

RELATED: 5 Communication Hacks To Make Unhealthy Arguments In Your Relationship A Thing Of The Past

You’re hearing, "You can’t say that to me."

You might actually be the jerk here because you’re not hearing your partner with any empathy or compassion.

You’re not "winning" what is now brewing into an argument. The voice in your head is telling you how wrong your partner is and how right you are. That voice is lying.

Acknowledge that your partner not only feels unheard but is also actually being unheard. Recognize that your partner’s furious response is a desperate attempt to make themselves understood.

Your understanding and acceptance deeply matters to your partner.

Be gracious. Listen without judgment to whatever your partner is saying to you. Accept that there may be some truth being spoken.

Hearer or speaker, just start over from the beginning.

Cool down. Postpone the conversation until you’re both calm enough to listen to each other.

Let your partner speak first. (That’s just good manners.)

Listen carefully and confirm that you understand what your partner is saying.

"I heard you say XYZ is an issue for you because of ABC happened in the past."

Crazy how deep a conversation into the past can go. Ask for more detail and context.

Remember that your partner’s point of view is as valid as your own. The judgment of the voice-in-your-head matters not one-whit.

Bring empathy to the conversation.

Put yourself in your partner’s shoes and imagine for yourself how this is or was for your partner.

You may not share their point of view and yet you can both be right, even though you disagree.

When it comes to good communication, choose your compromise. If the matter at hand matters greatly to your partner and not so much to you, accept that and find a compromise that works for both of you.

If you care about the matter more than your partner does, again find a compromise that works for the both of you. If it’s important to you both, carefully craft an offer of compromise that would work for you and your partner.

If compromise isn’t possible, you can agree to disagree, you can bring in a third party to facilitate the conversation, or you can end the relationship.

Either way, be kind to each other because you were or will continue to be important to each other.

RELATED: 5 Small (But Significant) Ways To Change How You Speak To Your Partner

Susan Kulakowski, MBA, MS, is a writer who has been actively pursuing personal and professional development since 2017. Her focus is making personal development courses available for minors and their families. And yes, she did enroll in that standup comedy class and got a few laughs at the student showcase. Visit The Relationship Mastery Institute on Facebook for insights on relationships, communication, and love.