Relationships come in many different types. There are interpersonal relationships that you share with other people, such as friends, family members, acquaintances, and even those you dislike. There are romantic relationships with significant others. There is also the relationship you have with yourself. For any of these relationships to be successful, there is a main component that needs constant attention, and that is communication. Without effective communication, the relationship can break down and eventually fall apart. In this article, I am going to share a few tips on how to effectively communicate in a relationship to ensure it lasts.
When an issue arises in a relationship, it is important to address it with the other person instead of keeping it bottled up. If you do not share your thoughts, it is likely that frustration and resentment may build towards the other person, and at any given time you may reach a breaking point which culminates in yelling, fighting, the silent treatment, or potentially parting of ways. If you nip the problem in the bud, the chances of having a happy, healthy, and successful relationship increase.
I recognize that approaching another person about an issue in your relationship is no easy task, so in order to make it a little less stressful or intimidating, I have laid out a technique to start the conversation and another strategy to use while communicating.
To start the conversation:
1) Provide an “I Statement”
a. An “I Statement” refers to making a statement that explains how you are feeling and what you would like, without attacking the person you are speaking to or putting them on the defensive. The statement is as follows: I feel______ when_____because_____so I was hoping we could _____. A complete example would be: “I feel frustrated when the lights are left on after midnight because it is hard for me to fall asleep and then I do poorly in my classes so I was hoping we could turn the lights off or dim them at a certain time every night.”
b. If you notice in the previous example, I never told the other person they DID anything wrong or they have to DO something to make it better. I kept it all about me, the speaker, and how I was feeling and how I would like it to be solved.
During the conversation use LARA:
- L stands for listen. In this stage of LARA, active listening needs to be practiced by withholding your own thoughts and judgments for a moment in order to get a full understanding of the other person’s interests. Listening is different from simply waiting your turn to speak.
- A stands for affirm or acknowledge. Much like active listening, this stage requires that you say something affirming like “that makes sense” or “I understand.” If what they are saying is not clear, you can ask the other person to clarify. You just really want the other person to know they are heard.
- R stands for respond. This is when you can respond to the desires or issues raised by the other person, ask a question, or summarize what you think they said.
- A stands for add. This is your chance to contribute your thoughts and feelings to the conversation. In a constructive manner, you can say what is on your mind and what you would like to happen as a result.
By using this technique effectively, both people should feel like they were given a chance to speak and be heard without judgment or criticism.
Author: Amanda Chrzasz-Reedy
Barker, T., & Landrum, C. (2012). Office of Student Conflict Resolution, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Gordon, T., (2001). Leader effectiveness training, L.E.T: Proven skills for leading today's business into tomorrow. (1st Perigee ed.) New York, NY: Berkley.