By Julie Wales, Family & Special Needs Counsellor 
“Would you rather be right or be loved?” 
Quote from the book by Jonathan Robinson, Communication Miracles for Couples 
THE biggest issue I see in my couple’s work is their difficulty with communication. 
This is not surprising as we are not taught in school how to communicate within relationships and some of us will not have a model of how to do this from parents or caregivers. 
Improving communication and reducing arguments involves effort from both people in the couple and a willingness to understand and respect each other's perspectives. I always say put your 50% in each and it makes for a 100% result. 
Here are some practical tips to help you achieve better communication and reduce arguments: 

1. Practice Active Listening 

Truly listen to the other person's thoughts and feelings without interrupting or jumping in to reply too quickly. I think we listen to reply often, and we want to get our point across too often. This could be born out of defending our position or feeling unheard. Show empathy and understanding by recapping on what they've said to ensure you've heard them correctly. Couples often try this out in the session with me and it helps people to practice in a safe and supportive atmosphere and then go and try at home. 

2. Avoid Blame and Judgment 

Instead of pointing fingers and assigning blame, focus on the issues at hand and how they can be resolved. Use "I" statements to express your feelings and thoughts without accusing the other person. E. g “I feel ..(hurt)..when you say/do… because I (need/want)…and describe what you want …..Would you be willing to… 

3. Stay Calm and Respectful 

Keep your emotions in check during conversations. If you feel yourself getting too emotional, take a break and return to the discussion when you feel calmer. Always say you need a time out and when you will come back otherwise it may look to your partner as withdrawing and this would increase isolation for you both. Treat each other with respect, even if you disagree with their viewpoint. It is ok to disagree. It makes things feel easier if you can come back to the issue after having time out. Do something relaxing/soothing in your time out so you can come back to the chat feeling calmer. 

4. Seek Common Ground 

Find areas of agreement and build on them. Acknowledge shared goals and values to foster a sense of cooperation rather than conflict. What values are important to you, like honesty, compassion, fairness, planning together? 

5. Be Open to Compromise 

Recognize that both parties may need to compromise to reach a solution. Be open to finding a middle ground that satisfies both of your needs. Win, win is the ultimate solution. 

6. Clarify Misunderstandings 

If there is confusion or miscommunication, don't hesitate to ask for clarification. Restate your own points to ensure they are understood accurately. Miscommunication causes rifts to develop in your relationship if not talked through. This is one mistake couples make when they put their angst to one side and it keeps coming back to impact negatively, time and time again. 

7. Use Humour to Defuse Tension 

Humour, when used appropriately, can help lighten the mood and reduce tension during difficult conversations. Do not use when one person is feeling angry! Use humour in your daily interaction. 

8. Take Responsibility for Your Actions 

If you make a mistake or contribute to the problem, admit it and apologize. Showing vulnerability and taking responsibility can help deescalate conflicts. 

9. Set Boundaries 

Establish respectful boundaries for communication. Agree on a time-out signal if discussions become too heated and need to be paused temporarily. One technique from the Communication Miracles for Couples book is using “Spoon & Tune”. The couple can either stand or lay side by side and the taller person is behind the smaller person, and they embrace in spoon position and check in for a few minutes in silence, until they can breathe in unison. Even if both don’t feel like doing it force yourself to do it. This relaxes both people and takes the heat out of the argument and brings closeness, without the need to talk, blame or accuse. 

10. Focus on Solutions 

Shift the focus from dwelling on the problem to brainstorming potential solutions together. Working as a team toward a common goal can strengthen your relationship. 

11. Practice Regular Marriage Meetings or Check-Ins 

Can you start to work as a team and have weekly ‘team’ or marriage meetings to chat in private? Make time to discuss how your communication is improving and what areas may still need work. Regularly reassessing your communication strategies can lead to continuous growth. Talk about something funny or silly and build up to serious topics. 

12. Consider Couples Counselling 

If communication challenges persist, consider seeking guidance from a couple’s counsellor. I can offer coaching and tools for overcoming communication barriers. 
Remember that communication is a skill that takes time and effort to develop. Both parties must be committed to the process and willing to put in the work to create a more harmonious and understanding relationship. 
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