One of the most common complaints that I hear from couples in my practice is that their spouse doesn’t listen to them. They say they feel like they are constantly repeating themselves and having the same conversations over and over again. This of course, can be very frustrating. What they don’t realize is they may be contributing to the lack of communication and not even realize it.

Communication at its most basic definition is when the intended message is received by the intended recipient.  Anything else is not pure communication, which leads to miscommunication and misunderstandings.

There are three key aspects that affect communication in relationships. Knowing and improving yourself in these areas can play a big role in making your communication with your spouse more productive.

The first of these is tone. Tone is best described as the emotion behind the message. How you are feeling when you are speaking is reflected in your tone. Because we process emotions faster than facts, we will key into our partner’s tone much quicker than their message. If their tone is a negative one, it can trigger defensive responses. A positive tone is much more likely to elicit a positive response.

The second key is tact. In this situation, tact is referring to word choice and order. There is the right way to say the right thing, and the wrong way to say the right thing. The words we choose, the order we use them, and which ones we emphasize all play a roll in how they are received. I guess this is where we get the saying, “choose your words wisely”.

The last thing to remember is timing. In stand-up comedy, they say timing is everything. The same could be said of communicating in relationships. Bombarding your spouse with multiple needs the second they walk in the door after a long day of work is probably not the best timing. Giving them a few minutes to mentally switch from work mode to home mode can make them much more receptive to meeting those needs. Understanding when your spouse is most able to give you undivided attention will help you in getting your message across.

All communication takes work, but if you want to improve your odds in having your partner hear and understand you, working on the three T’s is a good place to start.

Written by: Mario Arredondo, LPC

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