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Seven Techniques to Help Solve Communication Difficulties
  1. Five Step Communication Process.
Step 1:

I care--tell the person you care about them
“I love you and want to maintain and deepen my love for you so I am risking this difficult message.”

Step 2:

I see--describe the behaviors you see without judgment; separate the behavior from the person
“I notice that you spent more on groceries this month than we had budgeted.”

Step 3:

I feel--clearly and calmly state how you feel without blaming the other person for your feelings
“I feel angry when I try to juggle the bills and know that part of the problem is going over the budget.”

Step 4:

I want--clearly state what your expectations are, what you want to happen
“Next time you shop for groceries I want you to take a calculator along so that you can add the cost as you go and make adjustments but I am willing to discuss alternatives to that.”

Step 5:

I will--this ties it all together; it gives the opportunity to offer support for what you expect, say what you are willing to do to help
“If you do that I will respect you and I will be a happier person while doing the bills.”

  1. The Broken Record

This technique was described by David Wexler in The Adolescent Self is a way to get heard when your partner makes excuses, doesn’t listen, or invalidates your feelings.  You simply restate what you want or feel without responding to the excuses, arguments, past behavior, or reasoning brought up by the other person.  For example, after you say, “I really don’t want to go to the races this week-end,” and the other person says why you should or belittles you for not wanting to, simply say, “That may be true, but I really don’t want to go to the races this time.”  Again the reasoning and arguments will come (no doubt because you’ve given in before).  You again say, “Even so, I really don’t want to go this week-end.”  Give words of acknowledgment such as “that may be true” or “I know you really want..” but then restate you desire.

  1. The Pencil Trick

Often in our disagreements we get so busy plotting our response that we don’t really hear what the other person has to say.  In The Pencil technique either party decides it’s time to eliminate the interruptions and non-hearing by taking a pencil in hand.  The person with the pencil speaks his/her mind until finished, using the “I statements” described above and keeping the subject matter to one brief issue.  That person keeps the pencil while the other person repeats back as completely as possible what the pencil holder communicated.  This is called “active listening”.  If the other person did not get it right, the pencil holder continues to speak to the issue until he/she feels completely heard.  Only then can the other person take the pencil and respond to the communication.  The process continues as that person keeps control of the pencil until he/she feels completely heard.

  1. This is really hard for me to talk about”

When the subject matter is extremely sensitive (perhaps about sex issues), “This Is Really Hard For Me to Talk About” is the mantra phrase with which to begin.  What this does is commit you to talking about something more than the weather.  You will then use your other communication skills to keep the communication lines open.

  1. Time Out

This is for those times the discussion has turned to accusations, name-calling, yelling, or bringing up the past.  Simply say that you are not able to continue the discussion at this time because of how upset or angry you are.  Say how much time you think you will need and make a date for continuing.  Then keep it! This gives everyone time to cool off and perhaps review some of the tools that you are committed to using.

  1. Just Listening

Sometimes this is all that is necessary.  Perhaps your partner is keyed up over work issues or difficulty with children or parents.  Sometimes you recognize this but feel picked on because your partner doesn’t know how to express his/her frustration at the real subject.  If you are aware of this, give responses such as, “That must hurt a lot.” or “You must feel very frustrated.”  These responses will encourage the speaker to continue and get at the source of his/her feelings.  Avoid defensiveness and advice giving.  These will only affirm that the discussion is a relationship issue rather than the problem outside the relationship.

  1. Admits past errors

Nothing disarms the other person so rapidly as admitting past errors.  “I know that last time we discussed this issue I brought up your old girlfriend. That was not helpful and I intend to focus on the present not eh past. Help me by reminding me of this if I bring up old issues.”

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