Caringly Communicate: Empathetic Communication
It is ok to agree to disagree. You can table the issue, revisit when you feel emotionally ready, or let it go if it is not essential. You can have a healthy disagreement.
Empathetic communication is taking a step back from “I” and focusing on the feelings and experiences of the other person. It is an intentional effort to connect emotionally through compassion, understanding, and introspection. This intentionality provides a safe space for both individuals to share their thoughts and feelings. This intentionality creates a setting that is collaborative and non-judgmental. Empathetic communication is a daily practice that will produce a consistent space for reflection, dialogue, and healing among all involved. This reciprocal process of communication requires openness and vulnerability, which makes this form of communication very difficult.
Why Empathetic Communication is Difficult
WE ALL WANT TO BE HEARD…OK AND? Feeling that your experiences and emotions are more important than your partners prevents us from connecting. For couples that struggle with communication, it is hard letting go of absolute values and beliefs that feed into the problems they ultimately want resolved.
It takes consistency. For some couples, their “normal” is riddled with conflict. Even so, that as they talk about resolving conflict, they in fact engage in even more conflict. Their normal can be nothing more than overgeneralizations and assumptions, which disconnect them from what is happening in the moment. It is these habits of poor communication that perpetuate negative cycles. Now that you have done something that has consistently failed, what about trying something different? It will require an open mind and readiness, which you may also find threatening and therefore resist, even if unintentional. It also requires consistently trying despite the setbacks.
People get comfortable in conflict. In some cases, we will find ourselves naturally creating a space that is toxic because it is normal for us. Find a new normal. Just like working out, there will be days that suck, days that you do not want to do the work, and days you love. It is those moments when you feel good that are overlooked. Always living these positive moments in hesitation and not embracing it for what it is. Something good. In those moments when things go right, embrace it, validate it, share the experience with your partner so that you reinforce the likelihood of it happening again. This is important to empathic communication because you are experiencing what a healthy relationship could look like from their perspective. Take that time to reflect and explore what you appreciate about them and share it with them.
What to Do
*Disclaimer* You probably already glanced over the many other blogs that talk about what to do. Our answers ain't change much so read it again. Hopefully, it sticks this time!
Do not confuse feeling entitled to your feelings as a reason to discredit your partner's feelings.
You can feel, share your feelings, AND allow your partner to feel and share theirs. Leave space for each other.
If you disagree with something, first, ask yourself these questions before any response:
What am I EXPERIENCING right now as they say this?
Did I HEAR what they said clearly? (Don’t make assumptions)
What did I hear them say when THEY spoke to me?
Do I UNDERSTAND what they said clearly?
What is the PURPOSE of sharing my disagreement? What will it do for the energy and space we are trying to create? Will this help resolve the current conflict?
Validate your partner's feelings. Do not engage in lecturing them over something they shared.
Say to your partner “thank you for listening to me”
Say to your partner “thank you for not interrupting me”
Collaborate on solutions. Share if you feel stuck and if you need assistance in finding out what can be done next.
Reflect on what your partner said. Something like “what I heard you say was…” or “correct if I am wrong, but it sounds like you said…”
Eye and I: Give your partner eye contact and use “I statements when talking. For example, “I feel...”
Discuss what you want, why it is important, and what are the things getting in the way.
Stop holding your breath for something to go wrong. Do not get tripped up by the generalizations that have shaped your narrative of your partner. Embrace what is going well. Empathetic communication also includes sharing the good that you have experienced or observed.
This post was not just for couples by the way. Many people need to learn how to caringly communicate. We can't stay in our heads and assume the other person will simply “understand us”. Getting out of your head allows you to safely explore what is in theirs. Caring while communicating provides the opportunity for you to create an environment where someone feels wanted, comfortable, and supported.
- Stay blessed everyone.
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