“I haven’t talked to my husband in three days,” my friend, Judy, confided in me. I couldn’t imagine living in the same space with someone and not speaking to them. On the other hand, in the family I grew up in, yelling and screaming at each other, wasn’t the least bit uncommon for my parents.
It’s widely understood that one of the most important aspects to a successful marriage is good communication. But in my own experience, that’s easier said than done.
After 28 years of being in relationship with my husband, I have finally learned to communicate effectively. My definition of good communication is that it gets me the results I desire—peace, love and happiness. “The meaning of your communication is the response you get,” was a statement often repeated by my first teacher of Neuro-Linguistic Programming—a powerful form of hypnosis and communication training. But figuring out how to do that can often be a journey.
Here are 10 tips I learned along the way:
1. Communicate From Your Heart, Not From Your Ego
It’s so easy to want to blurt out all the demands of your ego, but that is not likely to be effective. Instead, take a moment to connect to your own heart and sense what you are truly needing and what would be best to express.
2. Be Polite
I used to think politeness was all about saying “please” and “thank you.” But I came to see that it’s much more than that. Being polite is honoring your partner, or whoever you are speaking to, and holding that human being in respect, before you say anything to them.
3. Be Curious
Having grown up with a lot of rage, my first reaction tended to be anger. The best advice I ever got was to come from a place of curiosity rather than irritation. “What makes you say that?” is a great place to start. “Hmm, that’s an interesting perspective,” is another.
4. Watch Your Tone
Surely you’ve heard that 90% of communication is non-verbal. It takes a lot of conscious restraint to check your tone and body language when you are feeling annoyed, betrayed or any other difficult emotion. But raising your voice will only put the other person on the defensive. They will feel attacked and are most likely to defend or withdraw. Both of those outcomes are likely to simply increase your suffering.
Hold off on talking too much and instead engage your listening skills. Do not just wait for your turn to give a rebuttal. Rather, listen, not just with your ears, but with your heart. Try to understand how your partner is feeling. Engage fully with eye contact and non-verbal cues such as nodding, to let your partner know he or she is being understood and not judged.
6. Take A Look At Your Own Energy
Open your awareness to your own impact on your beloved. How does it feel to be him/her and having to receive your energy? Is your energy too aggressive, weak, dominating, subservient, confused, negative or needy? It takes courage to look at yourself and it’s important to do so without judgment. Seeing your own impact on your significant other will open the door for compassion for both of you to enter.
7. Start Over
It’s OK to say you are sorry. Be prepared to forgive your partner. Ask your partner if he/she would be willing to let the grievance go and start over. If he or she is willing, a beautiful practice is to hold hands or sit close and pray to release negativity and embrace a new beginning—a sacred marriage of deep love and respect.
8. Watch Your Emotions
For years I followed the advice that it’s a good thing to share my feelings. I was told that someone who’s in relationship with you needs to accept you exactly as you are. The reality is that it’s difficult for people to handle negativity, no matter how much they love you. I found it much more helpful to acknowledge my own feelings, process them and contain them, and speak from a much wiser, softer place, to get my needs met.
9. Communicate For Results
Speak based on the results you desire. You’re much more likely to get the outcome you want if you communicate with awareness of your energy and emotions, but with the wisdom and compassion of your heart. Hold your partner gently, in your heart, as you communicate.
10. Look Into The Heart Of Your Beloved
You’re not the only sensitive person in the room. Your partner’s behavior may be painful to you. It may feel completely unjust. However, from his or her perspective, she is only trying to get her needs met. Open your inner vision to see your loved one as a small, needy child. Remember to let your partner know verbally and non-verbally that you love, respect, appreciate and hon
The bottom line is when you follow these 10 tips, you are going to be happier. For years I thought I needed to be right, rather than happy. But then I woke up. I discovered that the more I give my sweet husband unconditional love, forgiveness and respect, the happier I became. I learned that putting out positive energy, even if that meant overcoming negativity on my own, I was 100% more likely to get back so much love and appreciation—more than I ever could have imagined. I realized that respect begets respect.
I truly began to see my marriage as a beautiful spiritual path towards living and expressing from the heart, and at the same time a journey of deep healing and growth. What a gift you give yourself when you finally stop resisting and instead see your relationship is an incredibly effective tool to mold yourself into a much better expression of you.