The one problem killing your relationship may be ‘poor communication.’ While most couples come into therapy with this as a chief complaint. How can you think about your communication issues in a way that makes sense?
What most people mean is that my partner doesn’t get me and I don’t feel heard, listened to, or understood by my partner. But if you think about it communication can be boiled down into two parts, the person who is communicating or expressing themselves and the person who is receiving the message.
In many ways, communication is a bit like a game of tennis. In tennis, you need to be able to serve the ball and to return shots.
YOUR SERVE= is how well you are able to get your point across. Are you clear and direct in bringing things up and sharing how you feel and do you ask for specific things to make them better?
RETURN SHOT= is your ability to respond to your partner’s communication. Do you let your partner know that you heard what they said? Are your responses empathic? Do you show concern for your partner’s thoughts and feelings?
High versus Low Expressiveness:
The first question to ask: ‘Am I a High or Low Expressive person?’ On my old quiz, you were either a Confident Hero, a Renaissance Lover, or an Expressive Giver. On my new quiz, you are Secure Sophia/Steve, an Independent Isabelle/Ian or Nervous Nora high expressive subtype.
If you are a low expressive person, you were either a Reserved Playmate, a Hesitant Romantic, or a Loyal Supporter. On the new quiz, you were Sophia, Isabelle, or Nora the low expressive subtype. If you are a Wounded Warrior you can be either High or Low expressive. On the new quiz, you are either a Connie or Connor.
What would your partner say?
You might think you are a good communicator but if your partner doesn’t agree it’s a problem. The next question is what needs to change? Is it your tennis serve that is too intense? Do you flood your partner with too much information, too much affect? You are too aggressive, too upset and this affects what you are saying. Or is it your return shot, do you have trouble responding to feedback, you shut down and don’t know what to say back? Do you let your partner know that you heard what they said? Are your responses empathic? Do you show concern for your partner’s thoughts and feelings?
If you’re single:
HIGH EXPRESSIVE SINGLE: As high expressive person do you tend to share too much or too soon? Do you find yourself talking about failed relationships on the first date or the person who just stole your parking spot? Pay attention to your energy, stay positive, and share compliments. Your date will feel comfortable when you share positive things and have high energy!
LOW EXPRESSIVE SINGLE: If you are a low expressive person ask yourself, ‘How will people get to know me if I don’t share more of myself?’ It’s frustrating for your date to have to pry information out of you by asking questions. If you feel vulnerable by sharing too much, plan ahead. Think about conversations that you can engage in, but aren’t necessarily too revealing for you. People cannot read your mind or know how you think and feel if you don’t share. Don’t worry you’re sharing too much, low expressive people only think they are sharing a lot because it’s not in their comfort zone. Share more on your next date.
If you’re partnered:
Being high or low expressive is neither good nor bad, but it can be a problem if you and your partner have opposite communication styles; when one partner is High expressive and shares lots of concerns, the other is Low expressive and feels flooded. If you are not sure who your partner is, take the partner quiz here to find out more.
Are you opposite styles:
If you are highly expressive, you have little trouble expressing what is wrong in your relationship, you tell your partner exactly what you are thinking and feeling. If this served in tennis, it might be too aggressive or too fast?
Can you soften your serve:
Watch out that your partner doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the quantity of your sharing. If this is you, work on softening your serve. Also, don’t assume the worst if your partner is low expressive. Instead of thinking of them as withholding, avoiding, or even, punishing consider that your partner may not have learned that talking about things makes them better? Consider how they feel, your partner may be thinking, “Why do I have to repeat myself, you should know how I feel, Why do I have to say it? Why can’t you be quiet?” Consider your partner’s background and try to appreciate your differences. If you want your partner to share more, be encouraging, and receptive.
Can you share more: You will need to work on getting your serve over the net. No one can read your mind, you must speak up and ask for what you want and express how you feel. When returning your partner’s shot, make sure you acknowledge them by saying, “Yes, I hear you” Letting them know you heard them is different than agreeing with them.
Summary: In a secure relationship, both partners should feel heard and understood. Love really is like tennis it takes two skilled players to communicate. Tennis is more fun when you know how to play! Share with me your own communication struggles, What do you need help with?