I hear this a lot from my clients. Our words can be used to build one another up or to tear one another down – and many times without us even realizing it.
So many times I’ve spoken to a client who expressed being hurt by the words of their partner, only to see shock in their significant other’s eyes upon learning that what they said caused hurt feelings or anger.
That’s why it’s important that we take communication and contact seriously. Beyond the cliches and fluff, communication is important (though sometimes we would be better off to say less – but that is another article for another time).
So I’m going to discuss some simple ways to keep from hurting feelings, arousing anger, or causing confusion.
Say What You Mean
Being clear but also saying enough is so important.
I’m amused but frustrated at the same time when I so often see people who are self-proclaimed “great communicators” who expect their boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse to read their mind.
If you believe yourself to be a great communicator, do not expect anyone else to read your mind.
Instead, use your words. Use your skill to make things as clear as possible.
Don’t leave things open to interpretation or chance. Your significant other’s feelings and how that can impact your relationship are too important to leave to assumptions and pettiness.
Refuse To Make Generalities
In other words, don’t say things like, “We always do what you want to do.”
Or “You always say that.”
It’s not productive and will lead to defensiveness which, in turn, leads to a fight of words.
Focus on the issue at hand with calmness. Remember who you are talking to and, as I suggest with so many other areas of relationships, use this as an opportunity to turn it playful.
The best relationships embrace humor and lightheartedness when possible and appropriate.
Don’t Yell or Raise Your Voice
This is so important.
Yelling not only causes fights and hurt feelings, but causes immediate physiological and emotional reactions in the person being yelled at (or who believes that he/she is being yelled at).
It can cause the other person to feel that they are not valued by the person yelling at them.
It can cause a person to feel in danger even if logically they realize that they are not.
In children especially, it can cause the other person to feel that you don’t like them.
So if your partner (or anyone) can’t hear you, to avoid it even seeming like you are yelling at him/her, get closer or turn directly toward them.
This is another opportunity to make things playful. Always look for a way to turn away from anger and to go down a better path.
During an argument the adrenaline produced can make us more likely to yell because our body feels that “fight or flight,” response.
Fight against it. Value the other person enough. Research shows that yelling brings long term harm. That is an article for another time but treasure the person you love enough to choose your words and your presentation of those words carefully.
Silence Can Be Golden Or Painful
It often surprises people when I say that, sometimes, the best thing for a relationship is silence. In a world where we are constantly told to communicate and “get it off of our chest,” remaining silent has become a lost art.
While I am not suggesting that you hold it in and build up resentment, I am reminding you that sometimes silence can be healing. Sometimes you can just change the subject or let it go.
Silence can be powerful when someone has mistreated you and, in the case of a boyfriend/girlfriend breakup, silence can cause them to miss you. However, ignoring someone by being silent when they ask you direct questions or share with you how they feel can be as painful as insulting them or telling them that what they say doesn’t matter.
What you can do if an argument is getting too heated and things are being said that you both might regret is to say, “Can we take a timeout to cool off and talk about this again in twenty minutes (or an hour)?”
Choose How You Will Be Remembered
Psychology tells us that children often remember the words of parents into adulthood. They remember the good but they also remember the bad.
I bet that if you started thinking about it, you could remember good things that someone you loved said to you, but I also bet you could remember some bad things as well.
What’s more, you probably remember even more clearly how you felt when you were told those things. Since the words we say and even how we say them impact closeness and connection, we should be careful and deliberate with what we say to those we love. We are building a legacy of how we will be remembered with our children but also with a spouse or significant other. Words matter, so choose yours wisely.
Coach Lee is a relationship coach who has been quoted or interviewed in media such as Reuters, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Bravo TV, Elite Daily and others. He is the developer of the Emergency Breakup Kit that helps people get their ex back after a breakup. See his media portfolio at MuckRack.