One of the most (if not the most) important aspects of any good relationship is communication. Having strong communication skills will help you and your partner to get through nearly anything.
Keep in mind that communicating with your partner isn’t always easy. Also, it isn’t always about positive things.
So, how do you approach discussing a not-so-positive topic without hurting your partner and your relationship?
Constructive feedback can be of both a positive and negative nature. Positive feedback is certainly much easier to give and for your partner to receive. If you have a negative topic to discuss with your partner, it can still be handled constructively. That doesn’t mean you need to communicate differently or with a negative tone. It just means you need to understand how to give constructive feedback on a negative subject to your partner in a way that strengthens and builds your relationship.
It might sound easier said than done. But, it’s certainly not impossible to discuss a sensitive topic and provide constructive feedback to someone you love and experience positive results as you both move forward.
Don’t Focus on Your Partner’s Character
When offering constructive feedback, stick to the behavior or action you disapprove of and provide specific information that focuses on the issue of concern. Avoid directing your comments as “YOU” statements. This will put your partner on the defensive and runs the risk of your discussion getting off-topic. Don’t start talking about your partner’s character or personality. If you do, you’re making it a personal attack on them rather than the behavior or action that you want to discuss.
Naturally, your partner may start to feel attacked, which can easily lead to an argument where both of you start to say things about the other person’s personality.
Remember to initiate your conversation with a soft start. Keep your voice regulated, and your attitude loving and caring as you speak.
Share How It Makes You Feel
It’s a good idea to use “I” statements when giving constructive feedback to your partner. Share how their negative behavior makes you feel rather than attacking them.
For example, if your partner is extremely messy, you could say something like, “I feel overwhelmed by all the chores around the house. Would you help me by doing the dishes in the evening?”
Keep the Past in the Past
Stick to the present moment and the present issue when giving constructive feedback. Bringing up problems from the past lets your partner know that you’re holding onto negativity. It also makes it easier for them to assume you have a problem with them and not the specific behavior.
It doesn’t matter if you bring up something from five years ago or five days ago, it shouldn’t even be a consideration when you’re already giving constructive feedback about another issue.
Additionally, the situation at hand needs to be discussed, resolved, and then dropped. There is no need to keep dragging it out or bringing it up, even if it’s just a few hours later.
If you can communicate your thoughts and feelings effectively, a compromise can be reached, or the matter resolved. Once it’s in the past and you have both moved on, don’t hold onto it.
Give Positive Feedback
When you want to improve communication with your partner, don’t only talk to them about negative things, or things that bother you. Be sure to give them positive feedback frequently, too.
Make it a practice to consistently tell your partner about what they’re doing right or behaviors that you appreciate. Offer compliments and positive feedback daily! This will make it more likely for them to listen to you when you must talk about negative things.
It also decreases the chance they’ll consider constructive feedback as a personal attack.
Compliments are deserved from time to time. Couples that are willing to give them are better at establishing a firm foundation for excellent communication.
There is always room for improvement in couples communication. As you grow as a couple, you’ll continue to learn things about each other. That includes how your partner responds to certain things, and what they need from you in the way you communicate.
When you actively work to improve your communication with the person you love, you’ll undoubtedly end up learning more about yourself, too.
Strong, productive communication is an important skill for both individuals in a relationship to learn and continue to improve. If you’re both committed to good communication with each other, it can make all the difference in how you handle disagreements and difficult conversations, and how well you can adapt to each other’s behaviors.
Janie McMahan, MA, LMFT works with couples to help them build and maintain strong, healthy connections. If you and your partner struggle with communicating effectively, contact Janie at 512-362-8050 to schedule an appointment or a free, 30-minute consultation.