Solution: Listen Actively, Send a Signal, Make a Habit
• Try active listening. It’s easy to blame your partner for 100 percent of your disconnection woes, but everyone in the partnership — meaning you — bears some responsibility for keeping the lines of communication open. To steer your interactions in a more positive direction, Bea suggests active listening: After your partner says something to you, repeat it using slightly different wording, and include a feeling word. For example, say, “You had to deal with one request after another from your boss today, and that made you feel unappreciated.” “It’s a simple formula that takes a lot of practice,” Bea says. The payoff? “It’s nearly impossible to overreact when you’re conversing this way.” Make sure to take turns so that each of you gets a chance both to speak as well as to practice improving your active listening skills.
• Send a signal. “We get lazy in our communication habits, so we forget to listen,” Bea says. To change that dynamic, let your partner know that you want to have a new kind of conversation. Say, “Would you mind if we turn off the TV for a few minutes? There’s something I want to talk about.”
• Create a new habit. Human brains love ritual, Bea says. So create a ritual that fosters true communication, such as having everyone at the table take turns talking about one thing they’re concerned about and one thing they’re grateful for. “Setting aside some time each day where you check in with each other wards off bigger misunderstandings.”