Improving Your Communication Using a Positivity Approach

Many couples struggle with communication issues. In my practice I hear comments such as “When we try to address a serious topic such as in laws, disciplining our children or getting them to finish their homework our arguments escalate into a fight” or “my partner does not listen to what I am saying, he/she interrupts and tells me I am wrong”. Positivity and soft start ups are missing. Harsh start ups are common and there is a great deal of criticism and complaining.

In Part 1 of Communication I described that the research of John Gottman Ph.D that emphasizes positivity.

Here are additional best practices to utilize when you are not having an argument.

  1.  Practice positivity in conversations.

Take some time each day to have a conversation that does not involve a troubling issue. Dinnertime can be a good time to do this ideally including the whole family. Today, in many families there are so many scheduled activities that it may be hard to gather the family for a meal. You can start small perhaps with brunch at the weekend. You can share a funny experience, talk about a TV show or reminisce about something good that you all shared. Find topics where you can share thoughts and feelings while staying away from criticism and complaints. In addition to practicing positive conversation you will be helping your children’s health and well being in general.

  2. Ask for what you want.

Turn around conversations with your partner when you are asking for change. Instead of focusing on behavior or attitudes that you dislike get into a habit of asking for what you want.

For example; instead of “You never speak to me when you get home from work. You always go into your office and turn on the computer.” You can ask for a change of behavior instead. ” when you come home from work I would like you to greet me and share a little about your day. A kiss and a hug would be wonderful.” Which would you rather hear?

  3. Listening Skills

Practice this exercise which highlights listening skills when there is a topic that needs to be discusses. A common complaint is that people in relationships and at work say that they do not feel heard. Often this is because we are thinking about what we are going to say in response so really have not fully understood what the person has said.

One person begins the conversation stating their point of view, avoiding criticism etc. and without trying to convince their partner that they are right (Partner A). Then the other partner (Partner B) expresses what they have heard and checks with partner A to see if they have understand correctly. If B has not understood they can both clarify further. Partner B has fully understood Partner A’s point of view then the roles can be reversed. This technique can be tricky at first but it does allow better understanding and eliminates fighting to be right. Gottman’s research found that the marriage masters were far better at accepting influence from their partner. This was especially true  when men accepted influence from their partner.