A lot of relationships end when they really could continue. I think that a major problem is the lack of communication.
We make three fundamental mistakes around communication that can really jeopardize an otherwise viable relationship, and there are three important communication skills that can make the difference between an unhappy break-up and an ongoing, happy relationship.
Mistake #1: Making assumptions. When we make assumptions about what our partner is thinking, feeling or intending, our reactions are based on inadequate, false or distorted information. Instead of making assumptions, we need to clarify what's really going on.
Mistake #2: Expecting mind-reading. When we're tiny infants, it's uncanny how our mother can almost read our minds. Without our having to say a word, our mom can tell what we need and give it to us. We should realize that it's the only time in life that this can happen and that for the rest of our life, we must clearly communicate our needs if we want our needs met.
Mistake #3: Not saying what we mean. When emotions run high, as they often can in a relationship, we're tempted to become petty, spiteful or passive-aggressive. Instead of saying what we mean we can be sarcastic; we can withhold information out of spite; we can even say the opposite of what we're thinking. Human beings are complicated and often, when clarity is what's most needed, we can be frustratingly obscure. Still, if we want our relationship to last, we must resist the temptation to do any of these things.
Skill #1: Keep it clear. We don't need to complicate things when we're expressing our needs and feelings to our partner. The more clear we can be, the more likely it is that we'll be understood.
Skill #2: Keep it kind. When we're trying to make a point, there's no room for nasty, spiteful or disrespectful words. If we want to be heard and if we want a positive response, we need to express ourselves in a kind and respectful manner.
Skill #3: Keep it simple. Often, when we've got a lot to say, we're tempted to say too much at the same time. We need to remember that if we bring up too many points, our partner can miss the main point of what we're saying. When we bring up one point at a time, the other person will find it easier to respond to our needs.
If we avoid the three above mistakes and practice the three above skills, it's likely that we'll be able to avoid the break-ups that often come from problems with communication.
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