Sevin Philips MFT offers communication tools that will give you a new approach to sharing and listening in a relationship.
1. Check your assumptions
2. Be curious about experience
3. Ask before giving advice
4. Sharing formula: Describe behavior then feelings
5. Ask before you launch into sharing something important
Communication Skills in a Relationship – New Approach (video transcript)
Hello, my name is Sevin Philips, licensed marriage family therapist. I have some communication skills that are absolutely going to help your relationship. These are tried and true.
The first topic is that many of us get in trouble when we make assumptions about other people’s experience. We have strong feelings. And it’s okay to have strong feelings about what’s going on or some assumptions or intuition. You might even be right, but to make the assumption that you’re right will get you in more trouble than it’s worth.
I suggest you go to somebody and check out your assumption. It will sound something like this: “Hey, I have this assumption, I have a story.” Tell them what it looks like and then ask the question at the end, “Hey, is there some truth to that?” Asking the question, number one, is completely respectful. The other part is if you say, “Is there some truth to that?” that question begs for somebody to look if there’s some truth to it. They may not agree with you entirely, and instead of shutting down and just saying no, it asks them to look for where there could be some truth in their experience to match up.
Another one is, is when someone comes to you with really something important to share or they’re wanting to vent, oftentimes we make it about ourselves. We tell them what we think or even offer suggestions about what to do, and sometimes somebody just wants to be understood. This is a very good skill – to be curious about somebody else’s experience.
When somebody comes to you, ask questions about their experience, deepen their experience, help them walk through it, and it could be really amazingly helpful for the person. For those people that are really attached to wanting to fix it (it does happen with the guys a lot) I suggest hold off on that. Be curious and then later on that evening or the next day, “Hey, I had some ideas about what you said, I thought it might be helpful. Do you want to hear it?” Basically, get used to asking whether somebody wants to hear some suggestions before offering them. It’s just a better way to go.
Another suggestion is that when you come to somebody with something really big to talk about, something kind of emotional or heated, I suggest that you come and first tell them the behavior that you’re seeing them do and then tell them how it makes you feel. That’s the formula. IF you don’t follow that formula, sometimes when you launch into what’s going on, it could sound like you’re telling the other person they’re a bad person and they meant to do it. When you just talk about the behavior you saw, it’s a much safer way to go about it. Then when you talk about how it made you feel, that’s also a safe way to talk about it because you have a right to have a feeling.
The last suggestion I have is whenever you’re going to have a big topic or a big conversation, don’t just launch and do it. Don’t come to somebody when they’re on their way to work or an hour before bed. Come to them and ask them first, “Is this a good time to talk? I have something important that I want to talk to you about.” Basically, by asking permission to talk, it’s just a really great way to help that the person’s going to be present, number one, which will feel good for you anyways.
These are my best suggestions to take home. Go try them out and let me know how it goes. Thanks.