Communication Skill: Positive Phrasing
Couples seeking counseling often tell me, “We just can’t communicate.”
Most of us want to feel understood and supported by our partners – but what that means can differ from person to person. Sometimes deeper emotional conflicts need to be resolved, but in most instances, focusing on how partners express themselves is the first positive step toward resolving bigger emotional issues.
One common mistake we make in intimate relationships is that we talk naturally, like we would in any other context. But our conversations with our partners — especially on emotional or intimate topics — should be purposeful, not casual.
When talking with your partner, focus on positive phrasing. Here are a few examples:
Negative: I’m not discouraged about that
Positive: I feel encouraged by that
Negative: I don’t want to be late
Positive: I would like to arrive early
Negative: I don’t care where we go for dinner
Positive: I like both of those options for dinner
Negative: Don’t ignore me
Positive: Please focus on me when I talk to you
Do you hear the difference? After I point out this pattern and ask clients to restate their thought in a positive sense I find that even their tone of voice and facial expression are softened, more lively. As a listener, it is more engaging to hear positive phrasing as it draws us closer together.
I encourage you to give more detail when stating positive needs. Try to be specific, give good information to your partner on exactly how they can meet your needs.
For example, instead of simply stating “Please focus on me when I talk to you,” go further. Say something like:
“Please put down your phone and look at me, so I know you are focused on me. It helps me feel heard.”
These changes in the way partners express may seem small, but keep in mind that communication in relationships is a big picture made up of many small elements.
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