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A recent buzz phrase in business consulting is collaborative communication. With a little reflection on both terms, you can easily get an idea of what the concept is all about: openly and honestly communicating with your colleagues. One little twist in collaborative communication training, though, is an emphasis on acknowledging that communication can be both verbal and non-verbal.
If you’re in a romantic relationship, short- or long-term, that final caveat might really hit home. Sure, talking is wonderful, but you really get the message from your partner through a barrage of facial expressions, proximity and body stance, and tone and volume of speech.
This insight makes the relevance of collaborative communication to romantic relationships quite valuable. In an article for PsychAlive, Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. says “Studies have shown that couples who practiced collaborative communication experienced more overall relationship satisfaction. When you get into the steps of collaborative communication, it’s clear how it can be a powerful tool for improving interpersonal relationships.”
If this sounds simple, nothing could be farther from the truth. It involves that most difficult of actions — listening. “Communicating collaboratively,” says Firestone, “means taking actions that draw our partner out and trying to understand an interaction from their perspective. Our goal is to align our state with theirs, so we get a fuller picture of their experience separate from our own. When we do this, we often have to fight our own impulses to come from a more reactive, defensive, or combative place in ourselves.”
The collaborative in the phrase, though, is key. It’s a two-way street. You and your partner both need to feel that you can trust the other when being open and vulnerable. The reward for this trust, though, is immense — it can be the foundation on which you build a stronger, more intimate relationship. If you’re interested in giving collaborative communication a try, take some tips from Firestone.
Become a better, more attuned and less defensive listener. You don’t have to agree, but you do have to listen. Don’t interrupt.
Separate your past from the present. Baggage. You may drag a ton of it into your relationship. Let it go. It’s not your partner’s problem — it’s yours.
Express yourself in ways that allow your partner to know and feel for you. Laying blame on your partner is going to elicit a negative reaction (more often than not). Simply let them know how you feel — if they love you they’ll react accordingly.
Repair after ruptures in communication. Ruptures, or any other way you want to describe an argument, are inevitable in a relationship. How you makeup is crucial. You need to acknowledge and take responsibility for your part in the disagreement. And once again, be prepared to listen.
Communicate feedback in ways that lead to closeness rather than distance. The key here is a calm openness — on the part of both partners. It’s not trying to establish who’s right or wrong but simply expressing and respecting each other’s individual perspective.
Find pathways to calm down and communicate more effectively. You can’t truly listen to your partner if you’re wound up. Find a way to calm yourself down — whether it’s taking a walk outside or meditating for five minutes — before you begin a serious conversation.