The older I get, the more I consider how critically valuable the art of communication is for every aspect of my life, from marriage to clients and business, to working with service providers. It’s impossible to underestimate the power of the verbal word, especially when it is on target and delivered in a way that the person not only understands, but that facilitates openness, agreement, and cooperation.
We are going to discuss several aspects of healthy communication in this blog post today. I’ll touch on a variety of things to consider when you want to develop your communication skills for greater success, and better relationships. Communication strategies for men aren’t hard, they just take a lot of willingness to look at what’s not working
The Tried and True “I” Statements
One of the clearest and most basic ways to communicate is speaking from “I” statements, rather than talking about the other person or referencing them when it comes to issues or problems. People tend to feel attacked, judged or criticized when you are talking to them about something that you’re needing from them or are having a hard time with, and it helps quite a bit if you can speak from your own perspective using “I” statements.
For example, instead of continuing to rely on things like, “you do so and so that is an issue for me,” try saying something like “I have a reaction to this behavior that you’re doing.” People are quick to feel judged or criticized when you make them the subject or object of your issue, but if you try to share your own perspective with them, and your emotional reaction to it, they are more likely to be able to hear you or act accordingly for what you need or want.
Knowing Yourself, and What You Want/Don’t Want
Another critical aspect of good communication is knowing what you want, and saying what you want. A lot of times people that I talk with don’t really know what they want or need, so getting clear about those things is an important first step to be able to communicate it clearly and directly to someone else so that they understand it.
If you don’t know what you want or need, how well will others know and be able to help you? I hear time and time again from people that don’t know them selves, and don’t know what they need/want in the world, be it love, respect, help around the house, more time, less stress, more vacation, more sex, etc. Really getting in touch with yourself and knowing yourself, your interests, your likes, your turnoffs, your needs, your feelings, etc. will go along way into being able to communicate this to others in your life. Others aren’t in the position to read your mind.
Now comes the ‘saying it’ part. Just as hard as knowing what you want is actually saying it out loud to someone who can help you. Sometimes there’s a huge disconnect between knowing what you want, and being able to say it. People get scared to say what they want or need, out of fear that others will have a reaction to them, judge or disapprove of them, or flat out reject them.
A lot of times this relates to our growing up in our families of origin, where our needs were repressed, not accepted, or flat out denied by parents who could not hear us. Therapy is really good for helping identify these blocks and being able to work through them so that you can support yourself, and communicate yourself to those close to you, rather than shying away out of fear of rejection or of disapproval.
Men Hide and Run Away, Not Communicate
For men, shutting down or withdrawing is very detrimental to their communication process. If there’s one communication strategy for men, I would say that to just stay present and not run and withdraw would be up there on the charts. Men tend to withdraw, hide, or shut down in intimate relationships rather than sticking in it and communicating themselves directly. I find that this sets up other problems down the road in a marriage, because it ends up making your partner the “pursuer”, which creates resentment and anger additionally.
Men who tend to withdraw, avoid, or shut down need to learn how to take the risk of staying in the game and communicating themselves. Sometimes, the comfort or security of shutting down is more important for protection than the actual ability to stay present and communicate, and this is something that a lot of guys could benefit from learning and undoing.
I think that for women, the worst thing is male avoidance or withdrawal, because a lot of wives or girlfriends that are left to making up certain stories about them and their role in the relationship, like how they are not loved, not cared for, or not important to their guy. Quite the reverse, for men it’s usually about self protection, rather than communicating their lack of love for their partner, but again, this does not get communicated and gets lost in translation. Rather than a conversation about better communication, it can get taken onto a new plane of meaning – about the marriage or relationship itself, rather than as a situational problem with communication.
Vulnerable Men are Not Weak: Being Vulnerable is a Communication Strategy for Men
Another aspect of good communication, especially in an intimate relationship or marriage, is the ability to be vulnerable. I think this is uniquely difficult for men, but difficult for people in general. For guys, not having grown up without any of the intimacy language, many are forced into trying to become emotionally vulnerable or disclose their innermost life when they don’t know how to do that at all.
Part of becoming vulnerable is learning how to take risks to be authentic and genuine with people who you have learned to trust. It’s difficult to do those things, especially when you grew up in an unsafe or hostile family background, where the prospect of opening up and sharing your deepest emotions, thoughts, and experiences was on supported, or dangerous in fact. It’s harder when you and your partner have a strong “negative cycle” that keeps you from connecting and sharing your innermost self.
Dealing with fear is also a part of becoming vulnerable. Learning how to identify what you fear, and challenging those beliefs to see whether they are irrational or rational, also helps in promoting better communication. I have found that there can be a big difference between what we think is going to happen, and what actually happens, when we take a risk to reach out and communicate ourselves honestly to others. I think learning how do identify and deal with those fears is like removing barriers to deeper and more genuine communication.
Contact me for more information about learning how to better communicate with your wife, girlfriend, partner, or others close to you. Here’s where we can help. You can learn how to speak your mind in a clearer, more decisive and open way with your mate.