Thursday, February 12, 2015

How To Communicate Well: The Often Ignored Art of "When"

I’ve logged countless hours as a counselor and have partnered with many couples who were seeking to save their marriage, or simply improve the condition of their relationship. One complaint that almost each couple has had over the years, is that they didn’t feel that they were able to communicate with each other as well as they needed to.

Few things will damage a relationship more than a breakdown in communication. Parents feel distanced from their teenagers when lines of communication break down. Husbands and wives feel lonely and misunderstood when their communication doesn’t  work as well as it did in the beginning of their relationship. Even relationships at work will suffer if communication is not clear and healthy between employees. Many people wrestle with “how” to communicate, but few ever consider “when” to communicate. Here are three thoughts about when to communicate that can immediately improve your relational life:

Just Because You Are Ready Doesn’t Mean That They Are

We’ve all been there, we have given an issue a lot of thought, we are burdened by it and ready to talk about it NOW. The person you are going to talk to may not be ready, however, and if they are not ready, the communication that you initiate will be weak at best. Just because you have thought the issue through and are ready to hash it out doesn’t mean that your child, spouse, or co-worker is equally prepared and ready. Also, just because they are not ready to talk about it doesn’t mean that they don’t care or are avoiding you. The next time you are ready to talk over something important with someone, ask them if it’s a good time to discuss it. If it’s not, ask for a better time. Your goal is not to simply get the words out of your mouth, but to initiate a shared conversation about the topic that you are concerned about.

We Are Not All “Night People”

The "right time to talk" is almost never after 10PM at night, especially if it is a sensitive or important issue. Some people do their best thinking after 10PM at night, but most do not, and everyone is more emotional at the end of a long day. If you have something big to discuss with your husband or wife, don’t start unloading on them after Jimmy Kimmel.

Put It On The Books

It’s easy to put hard talks off and never pick them back up. This lack of communication is often the most frustrating of all. Putting a talk off isn’t a bad thing, but you need to pick a specific time to pick it back up again. Don’t settle for, “we’ll talk about it some other time”, or even, “let’s pick this up this weekend”. Be precise. “Can we talk about it over breakfast on Saturday?” or “Could we grab coffee next Tuesday at 3PM and talk it over?” Pick a time and put it on the calendar. It may seem silly to schedule talks with your spouse or kids, but we rarely return to issues if we don’t schedule time to do so.

How you communicate not be the problem you are facing in your relationships. These tips on when to communicate will make you more clear and the people you are talking with more receptive. 

Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo

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