“We have communication problems,” says just about every couple who comes to counseling. Some of them even start to think they married the wrong person because they simply don’t understand each other.
Communication problems are unavoidable between any two people who are: born differently, raised differently, and love differently. And most likely, you will always be attracted to someone who’s different. You can have a lot in common, yet still differ in the way you handle life and relationships. But overcoming differences is not impossible.
This is where self-awareness and a willingness to be honest about your weaknesses come in handy. If you’ve taken my soulmate-personality test, then you know that there are instinctive behaviors that come naturally to everyone. Some good. Some bad. (If you haven’t taken the test, what are you waiting for?)
When you learn to work with your partner, not against him, you can get past any differences. As a mature, level-headed adult, the problem is often not what you say, but when and how you say it.
WHEN YOU SAY IT
The timing of intense conversations is different for each personality. Introverts like to take their time to process their thoughts quietly before giving an opinion. They want to analyze facts and relevant information before discussing with their partners. This gives them time to cool down or wind down after a long day of work. If they are allowed this opportunity, they are able to take their emotions out of the equation, long enough to work things out based on logic. This is a huge benefit to the relationship because logic has the power to solve problems.
But, if given too much space, some introverts may try to avoid having hard conversations all together. Unfortunately, problems don’t go away just because you avoid them. Avoidance is a total cop-out. It’s impossible to be in a close-knit relationship with anyone without having uncomfortable conversations. It’s part of “adulting.”
Extroverts, on the other hand, like to think out loud and sometimes they want to be heard while doing it. This helps them to process their emotions and get things off their chest. But if they are allowed to do so while their emotions are running high, they may say something to offend their partner.
To get around this situation, I recommend extroverts calm down and give the introverts a little space, but not too much. The extrovert should let the introvert know that there is an issue that needs to be discussed and set a cool-off time (3 or 4 hours later) when the both of you can come together and put it all on the table.
During the cool-off time, the extrovert should do something to take her mind off the problem. Exercising, cooking, praying, or watching a movie might help. And when the cool-off time is over, both partners should come together and be willing to discuss the issue at hand.
HOW YOU SAY IT
The tone of your communication is also important. Tone involves how you say what you need to say. The wrong tone will either put your partner in FIGHT mode: ready to defend himself, or in FLIGHT mode: run, hide, and shutdown all communication. Neither of these will solve the issue at hand.
Cholerics and Sanguines tend to be more expressive and passionate when communicating. Their passion can often be mistaken for anger when it’s not anger or labeled as disrespect when it is anger. When that happens, you may never be able to get a word in. This is an example of fight mode.
Anger is the result of frustration- at not being heard, or fear. All of our emotions are interconnected in some way. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post. If the extrovert can take a moment to question the real cause of their anger, they may realize that what they’re really angry about is deeper than the issue they have with their spouse. This can diffuse the situation long enough for them to communicate using the right tone.
It’s also helpful for couples to come up with a list of words that should never be spoken, even if you’re upset. Words that imply divorce, name-calling, accusations, or blame should never be spoken in the heat of an argument.
Introverts tend to be quiet or soft spoken even when they are angry. This can result in their feelings being taken for granted.
Sometimes you won’t even know they’re angry. They may refuse to talk and request to be left alone. This is fine as long as they are given a time limit, as I said before. Allow them to process their feelings alone, but require them to talk at the end of the time limit.
Communication is one of the hardest skills to master when you’re talking to the one you love. But any and every topic can be discussed if:
you understand the differences between yourself and your mate,
follow basic communication rules, and
stop running away from conflict. Boss up and face the issues together.