Lots of articles, blogs, and books have been written about how to solve communication problems in marriages and intimate relationships.
Yet…95% of the lesbian couples I work with tell me that communication is one of their biggest issues (if not THE biggest issue) that keeps them from feeling happy and at ease in their relationship.
Most therapists, coaches, and relationship experts teach that good communication hinges on the speaker keeping her focus on herself and the listener practicing active listening.
In other words, they teach that the speaker ought to use I statements and the listener should parrot back what they’ve heard.
I’ll admit those are a couple of good suggestions. However, they will not solve your communication woes.
Now that I have 25 years of couples counseling experience, a doctorate in Marriage Therapy, and hundreds of hours studying with the top experts in the field, I’ve come to realize that there’s one key ingredient that results in excellent communication. In communication that’s non-argumentative, meaningful, empathetic, and leads to repair and resolution.
Just one thing.
Are you curious about that one ingredient?
I hope you’re genuinely curious about the one thing that can easily tear down your communication barriers and position you and your partner to become a gold-medal communication team.
If you are curious, you’re actually beginning to experience the one simple thing that can solve your communication problems for good.
That’s because this one, magical communication ingredient is…
You see, shifting into a mindset of curiosity will take your communication from poor to great. Guaranteed!
Curiosity will make you a better initiator of conversations (speaker) AND a more effective listener. As you know, those are the two roles of communication- the speaker and the listener.
Leaning into curiosity will help you be a better speaker.
When you have something difficult to talk to your partner about, there are three things that will help you have a successful conversation:
- Get crystal clear about your main concern
- Express your thoughts and feelings vulnerably
- Avoid blaming or accusing your partner
Curiosity will help you ace all three of these.
It’s important to stick to one issue in a conversation. Otherwise you’ll spin into talking about six or seven different things and you’ll make no progress whatsoever.
So, spend a few minutes getting curious about the one issue or concern you want to bring up to your partner. You can do this by asking yourself a few questions before you start the conversation with your partner:
- What’s bugging me the most right now?
- What do I want from my partner in this conversation?
- Why is this topic important to me?
- How am I feeling about it?
Next, let your partner know you have something to talk about, and if it’s a good time for her to listen, begin sharing your thoughts and feelings. Use your curiosity to dig beneath your initial feelings. Ask yourself, What else am I feeling? What’s this connected to?
You can stay mindful of not blaming your partner for your feelings by leaning into curiosity, as well. Remember that blaming other’s actually interferes with you knowing yourself.
Being curious about the role you played in the situation will help you be kind to your partner and grow in your own self-discovery.
Adopting a practice of genuine curiosity will help you be an effective listener.
When your partner has something important to share with you, your job is o be a good listener. The steps to being a good listener include:
- Listen calmly
- Recap what your partner is saying
- Empathize with your partner’s feeling
Curiosity is the secret ingredient that will insure your to success as a listener.
In order to listen calmly, you’ll have to avoid getting defensive, stop yourself from bringing up your own complaints, and not jump to solutions right away.
And let me tell you…curiosity is the antidote to those typical (yet harmful) communication coping mechanisms that Do.Not.Work.
Instead of getting defensive or silently plotting your come-back, lean into curiosity. Really!
Getting curious will help you stay calm.
Then, as you let your partner know you’re understanding her by recapping what she’s saying, ask questions that will help you understand her feelings and experiences more deeply.
Good questions (that come from genuine curiosity) will help your partner feel seen and valued. And they may actually help her understand herself better, too.
Curiosity will help you reach the ultimate goal of empathy. Without curiosity, inquiry, and inquisitiveness, you will not be able to walk a mile in your partner’s shoes.
Try curiosity out the next time you and your partner start to have a challenging conversation.
If you’re experiencing extreme communication problems or other issues in your relationship, I want to invite you to consider joining our 6-week online group coaching program for lesbian couples: Transforming Lesbian Couples (TLC).
In that program, you’ll learn how to reconnect, create a secure relationship, and communicate like pros!