How many times have you found yourself frustrated in conversation with your mate trying to explain something important and walked away shaking your head in frustration saying to yourself, “He just doesn’t get it!” Your shoulders tense, your brows come together in that little crease and the tension headaches continue.
We all have different languages and ways of interpreting love and affection based on our upbringing, gender, personal belief systems, and other life experiences and filters. The key to successful communication in relationships however is not assuming that just because something makes sense to you or is something that you enjoy, it must make sense or be something your spouse enjoys too.
You may be wondering what the heck successful communication has to do with improving your relationship and your health. Here’s the scoop. Studies done at the Institute of Heartmath have shown that stress and different emotional states affect our autonomic nervous system, hormonal and immune systems, heart and brain. Quite simply, they’ve proven that negative emotions impact our health in a negative way, and positive emotions impact our health in a positive way. While we occasionally do experience emotions on our own, they are more often than not the result of a successful (or unsuccessful) experience with someone else.
That’s why I’ve come up with 10 simple ways for you to improve your translation and communication skills, and tip the scales in your favor for a better relationship and better health.
1. Never Assume, Always Ask.
While some days it might seem like it, our significant other does not wake up each morning wondering what they could possibly do to tick us off. Miscommunication often occurs because we make assumptions about what someone else says or does based on our own set of filters, perceptions and interpretations. If your mate says something to you that feels hurtful or like you just got slammed in the heart, take a step back and ask “This is what I heard, is this what you meant?”
2. Learn Their Language.
Ask them what makes them feel acknowledged, respected or special. Do they like it when you compliment them on their haircut or their clothes? Ask what makes them feel frustrated. Don’t judge their responses (or roll your eyes at how different it is from your own answers), just listen with an open heart. When you can communicate in their language, you gain credibility, increase your connection and you just may learn something new in your relationship.
3. 10 Words or Less.
Not that what you have to say isn’t important, but longer more detailed explanations can get tiring (especially after a long day at work). Whatever you are wanting to communicate, see if you can bottom-line the main point down to 10 words or less. You will immediately increase your credibility and get your point across simply and more powerfully.
4. Start with “I”.
Since when did blame or guilt really ever get us what we wanted? No one likes a sentence that starts with “You did” or “You said,” because it instantly sets us on defense wondering what we did or said that was not to someone else’s satisfaction. (And a constant state of emotional defense affects our physiological fight/flight response, putting more stress on our bodies’ internal systems). Take responsibility for your health by starting with your words. Begin your sentences with “I feel” or “I would like” and observe how others respond.
5. Ask for What You Want.
Contrary to popular belief (and no matter how good you think you may be) we are not mind-readers. And “they” are not mind-readers. It is not anybody else’s job to read your mind to figure out what you want – for your birthday, to rub your feet after a long day, to just be held or told everything is going to be okay, to take the kids for a day so you can have some alone time. If you’re not getting what you want, chances are because you are not asking for it. Start now (and hey, practice asking for it in 10 words or less).
6. Rewind and Edit.
Okay, so the last conversation didn’t go so well. You both walked away angry, frustrated, and feeling like crap. You both probably said some things that just didn’t come out right. All is not lost and you don’t have to wait a week to make up. See what you could have said differently that may have served the conversation better. Take the initiative and ask the other person if you can rewind and edit what you said the first time…and try it again.
7. There are No Mistakes, Only Practice.
Stop blaming the other person (and yourself) for doing or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Or even for not doing or saying the right thing at the right time. In truth, there are no such things as mistakes. There is only an experience or outcome that we have based on a certain set of choices that we either like or don’t like. When we don’t like the outcome based on a series of choices we’ve made, we feel bad and stressed because we made a “mistake.” Nonsense. If you don’t like the outcome of a recent choice, just like the rewind and edit practice above, make a different choice. The only way to get better at anything we do, especially in our relationships is to practice, practice, and practice.
8. Eliminate Static.
Studies have shown that negative thoughts and emotions have a physiological impact on the body. Think of it like static on a TV. You want to see a clear picture, but there is nothing but fuzz blocking your ability to get the experience you want, leading to frustration and more negative thoughts. Disharmony leads to inefficiency and increased stress our bodies’ systems The next time you find yourself having that one-way conversation in your head that is a result of all the emotions you’ve pent-up and not expressed out loud, take a deep breath and get honest with yourself about what is really bothering you. When you eliminate the static of all the little irritations and get to the heart of your emotions, you will have a clearer picture and less stress.
9. Snuggle More.
Research shows that when two people touch or are in close proximity, one person’s heartbeat signal is registered in the other person’s brainwaves. This field becomes measurably more coherent as we shift to a sincerely loving or caring state. Life will always be busy. Stop feeling like you’re living in the same house and never see each other. Set some time to just snuggle and hold hands – connect!
10. Make Time Each Day for Yourself.
Nobody ever said that a successful relationship meant sacrificing yourself in the process. (Okay, maybe your mom did, but it’s not really true.) If you are so busy taking care of everyone else that you find yourself wishing there were 48 hours in a day so you could have some time for you, stop! Studies show that taking just 10 minutes a day twice a day to do something nice for yourself can improve your mood, relieve depression, and increase feelings of well-being. When you are happier, you will bring a happier (and healthier) self to your relationship.
Start now. Take out your calendar, your Outlook, your Blackberry, whatever and block out 10 minutes for yourself. I’m not kidding. You’ll thank me later.
Here’s to you and your relationship!
Jenn Kaye, founder of Touch with Intention™ and Head-On Communications International, is an internationally recognized communications strategist and relationship expert. She helps individuals around the world get more of what they really want in their relationships and in their lives – with less effort and more fun. She has been has been seen and heard on NBC Radio, RealTime Moms, Babies First TV, Good Morning Arizona and quoted in dozens of publications including Femina, India’s leading women’s magazine and The Inspiration Journal. To learn more about her Couples Romantic Adventure Retreats specifically designed for getting more of what you want in your relationship, go to www.RedefiningRomance.com
Originally posted in Kalon Women May 2009 © 2011 All Rights Reserved Jenn Kaye & Head-On Communications International