We all know good communication is essential in relationships. But if you’re like me, communication at work and play is easier than in my relationships with an emotional stake, especially that with my partner.

Not even considering mother tongue and second language differences, it can be challenging.

Just getting to agree about communicating on an issue can unintentionally put one partner on the defensive. Men tell me that they can get wary when their partner says out of the blue, that she needs to talk. Did I do something wrong (again) or does she want something I can’t provide or wouldn’t want to do? 

Timing is also important. in our busy lives, we’re frequently short on time, or being distracted with something on hand. How long will this take?

There are a number of communication styles and differences can create confusion or frustration.   For example, in the ThriveTypes communication model, the Think First style is wanting to get straight to the point, whereas the Feel First Style seeks to establish a rapport or harmony, winding their way to communicating the point at the very end.

When partners have different style, say the Feel First is speaking in a rambling way, the Think First partner may be wondering, What’s the point they’re trying to make? How long will this take—a minute, 5 minutes, 30 minutes…? They may interrupt their partner or end up zoning out.

Conversely, when the Think First partner is speaking and directly gets to the point, it can be jolting or confusing to the Feel First partner, who wasn’t warmed up or didn’t get any context through initial messaging or body language.

The solutions, for the above are to 1/ have a routine, time and space set up for communication, with rules of engagement for safety and non-judgment and 2/understand your and your partner’s communication styles and have adaptions for them, for example,

  • Speaking to the Think First partner:  provide the point upfront or get to it quickly. Give them an idea how long it would take and ask if it’s a good time to communicate.
  • Speaking to the Feel First partner:  have an open body language and warm smile to set the tone, offer context and gently arrive to the point.

The listener can also shift and adapt to the speaker’s style by mirroring, while when

  • Listening to the Think First partner:  focus on thinking with your cortical brain
  • Listen to the Feel First partner:  focus on feeling through your heart

Couples’ communication go even further with the practices and tools I teach. They’ve learned how to form a ’container’ and hold space for each other to be able to fully and deeply voice and express, even about challenging topics. Even in fear, guilt, shame, sadness, disappointment, anger and being triggered.  Allowing for different communication styles, allowing for true listening, allowing within an agreed time frame.  Allowing for difference in views.

The communication container provides a protocol and rules of engagement. There’s readiness and willingness from both sides, with safety and acceptance for deep dive revelations, feelings and truths.  Optimised communication is a strong foundation of a thriving relationship.

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