Someone asked me, in response to last weeks article – “How do I know if I am treating my husband consciously, the way I would want to be treated?” My attempt at answering her follows, but first, lets define what I mean by conscious communication. This is when you can think before you speak, have awareness of the feelings that are present in the moment, and realize how you are making the other person feel, instead of just responding automatically.
Just ask. Have you ever asked your partner, or someone very close to you – “Did I say something that hurt you? Is it the way that I speak to you that hurts so much? Do I listen to you and take what you say to me seriously? Do I follow through on what you are needing from me? Are my answers to you supportive, or am I blaming or criticizing you? Am I dismissive to you? Do I respond to you in a way that works?
This is a great exercise to do, but you must be prepared to hear the answers. You may not think you are behaving contemptuously or that you are dismissing your partner’s pain, but your partner may experience you that way. So, instead of defending yourself against what your partner is saying, take it in and BELIEVE that he/she experiences you in that way.
And, it’s okay. This may be the first step to realizing the impact you have on your partner. We all need to be treated in certain ways. It is our responsibility to pay attention to how we treat people, and the easiest way to realize this is to notice the impact on the other. For example, if you start a troublesome conversation, and you are met with defensiveness, you probably started the conversation with an attack. If your partner comes to you with something upsetting, and you are dismissive, and your partner ends up appearing to feel more frustrated instead of satisfied by your response, then you can make changes in the way you are responding.
If you decide to approach your partner and open a dialogue, let your partner respond and DO NOT defend yourself, counter attack, dismiss, etc. Just take it in and LISTEN. If you want to have this conversation, and are fearful that the two of you will just recreate the same arguments, we can help guide you through your communication.