There’s quite a bit of truth in the saying, old habits are hard to break. In fact, even recent habits are stubborn things. Take, for example, many people’s increasing tendency to firmly believe their viewpoint is correct — to state the issue politely. Developing an entrenched opinion and being unwilling to listen to opposing views is on display every day in social media posts.
Therapists are seeing that tendency creeping into interpersonal relationships and causing problems. Writing for Psychology Today, Randi Gunther, Ph.D., says “Reasonable and fair negotiations cannot succeed when partners are locked into an individual viewpoint that erases any other. Opinions can rapidly become threats. Flexible thoughts become hard-and-fast beliefs that are cast in stone. The other partner is no longer someone who simply thinks or believes differently but is a threat and their opinion invalidated.”
Talk about a recipe for trouble! Honest communication is at the heart of every healthy relationship, and listening is easily the more important part of communication. Gunther recognizes that habits developed in the outside world are tainting relationships between romantic partners and preventing them from even listening to one another. That’s why she has begun utilizing workplace-proven negotiation tactics for couples. Here are nine techniques that give couples a new set of skills to help them communicate better.
“Recognize what may be happening to you and your partner.” This is the starting point. Both partners have to be willing to admit they have become fixated on their own opinion and be open to listening to one another.
“Understand the potential destruction possible.” Relationships sometimes end simply because one partner feels the other does not listen to them. Acknowledge just how serious this problem might be.
“Listen deeply without judgment.” Now comes the tough part. It’s time for both partners to listen before they can evaluate the issue.
“Look for similarities.” As you listen to one another, you may recognize that you are behaving the same way and experiencing the same feelings of frustration and resentment. That empathetic realization helps you progress.
“Imagine your partner’s feelings and state of mind.” If you take this step, you may realize that the cost of “winning” is destruction of your relationship.
“Open you mind and heart.” Even if your partner does not convince you of the validity of their viewpoint, you will probably honor and respect their view more if you listen to them with an open mind. Honesty and respect build good will.
“Change your goals.” Simply put, do you want to change your partner’s mind, or do you want to be in a loving relationship again?
“Create a new, mutually agreed-upon set of attitudes and beliefs.” Find areas of agreement, and then commit to respecting those views you cannot fully embrace.
“Check in regularly.” Fixing your relationship is not a one-and-done proposition. It’s a process. Keep at it.