In our relationship, there are times when we find it so difficult to speak or to communicate with our partner/spouse. A lot of relationship problems and even an unhappy relationship can be the result from the lack of relationship that is going on between the two parties. We can have a lot of communication going on (in the form of how many times we talk with our partner in a day), but it may have been in the form of fights, arguments, and disagreements that are not healthy anymore for the relationship. When we have too many fights etc, most of the time it stems from us not wanting to understand other people’s point of view, but only to assert our own. So, how do we solve this issue? We can solve it with a technique known as empathic communication.
What is Empathic Communication?
Empathy is a very essential trait that we need to have in our lives. Psychologically, empathy is a form of experience in which we understand what someone else is thinking, feeling, perceiving, etc. In short, we put ourselves in their shoes so we know how it feels like to be the other person. We communicate not with the intent of replying or winning, but to understand other people’s point of views and to take into consideration what they are saying so we both can compromise and find the solutions to the issues in our relationships. We all perceive life differently and if we do not openly communicate how we feel, how are we able to understand and be understood by our partner and other people in general? Reflecting on that matter (the need to have and practicing empathy), what does it mean and how should I use it in my relationship?
How To Engage In Empathic Communication With Our Partner:
1. Your relationship is more important than your ego, so you have to set the ego aside
First and foremost before we start, both you and your partner need acknowledge that this is not about who is right or wrong, this is only about finding the appropriate solution for the issue. When both of you have acknowledge this fact, both of you will be able to listen to the information that the other person is saying instead of being clouded with your own perceptions. But, how do we seek to understand our partner? This is related with step number 2 below:
2. Conduct empathic listening
Another key aspect of empathic communication is empathic listening. It is a way for us to pay attention to other people in the intention to understand the information that they are conveying. The simple way to put is to seek first to understand, before being understood. Even though this is an extremely desirable trait, not a lot of people can perform this. It takes a lot of mental effort and also a high emotional intelligence to do this, but it is a skill that can be learned. The key to conduct empathic listening, as the highest form of listening and also the most effective form of listening, is to:
- Give the person you are talking to with full attention by creating a schedule where both of you can discuss any matter without interruption from anyone or anything else. Allocate a specific time for you and your partner so you can speak freely without being interrupted by each other (for example: you can set the time to talk on Friday with your partner, in your apartment for dinner time so you have a long duration, quiet place, and it will be only you and your partner that are involved in the discussion).
- After you have set the time and place, you can also set this discussion by allocating time for your partner can to speak first and then after he or she has finished, you can continue to speak what is on your mind that is related to the issue.
- Clear out our habits of “judging” (agree or disagreeing with someone else’s opinion), “advising” (instead of listening to others, we merely give our partner the advice that they do not actually need based on our irrelevant experiences that is not related to the issue we are talking about), “probing” (asking questions from our own reference/the way we perceive things instead of asking questions related to the perception of our partner), and “interpreting” (try to draw conclusions from our own motives and intent, instead of understanding our partner’s motives and intents).
- Summarise what you have heard from your partner by outlining what they have been saying all along (what he or he thinks the issue is, how he or she feels about the issue, and what is the solution that he or she offers to the table). This act shows that you are actually listening and appreciating what they are saying. When you show that you are appreciating your partner’s openness in expressing their thoughts and feelings, this will create a positive atmosphere where each party will be comfortable in opening up to each other and it will stimulate an open discussion instead of arguing pointlessly about the issue.
- You should also remember that your partner should also seek to understand you as well, as you have understood he or she first. Why? Your thoughts, opinions, and feelings do matter. Your partner will definitely seek to understand you too because both of you have created an open and positive atmosphere to discuss the issue freely without any judgments. Both of your inputs are crucial in finding the solutions to the issues that you are discussing about.
All in All
People are bound to have differences of opinions and disagreements often occur because of that. It does not mean that your partner love you any less or is attacking you personally because you both disagree on some aspects of the relationship. We should always strive to love our partner unconditionally despite the differences that we share. Who knows that the differences that we share with our partner is actually useful to complement our own personal strengths and weaknesses. To conclude the article, listening should not be done with the intent to reply, but it should be done with the intent of understanding our partner and other people in general.
What do you think about empathic communication? Do you think it is useful to be used in your relationship? Let us know in the comments below.
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