“Tell me more about what happens,” I ask. Then they each speak articulately and intentionally, and what I see before me are two people who are communicating perfectly well. What they are actually talking about is how they communicate under stress. Most often the stress is because they have lost their connection and are feeling judged and not listened to by the person who matters most.
For years, I responded by teaching them some important communication skills, such as using “I” statements, managing their reactivity, working to reduce stress levels and defensiveness, and the importance of understanding what they are communicating nonverbally. While these are all essential skills, there is something even more important than how to speak to each other. Even when you have the best communication tools possible, the tools alone are not going to sustain the heart of your relationship.
Here are a few things to consider when you think the problem is poor communication: