This article is extracted from “This is NOT a Second Honeymoon: Helping Couples Survive Spending A Lot of Time Together”, a book that was written by Christopher L. Smith to help couples during the COVID-19 pandemic. In his clinical work, he realized that couples being quarantined together have particular challenges. The book goes into a lot of these challenges along with strategies to survive these types of times and even to have their relationship thrive. We will be sharing a series of these extracts over several weeks to help you. If you would like to look at all of them together and get the book right away, it can be found on Amazon (Book).
Communication occurs when two parties are engaged. Communication cannot occur within a vacuum. For communication to be effective, the person hearing has to be able to hear what the person who is speaking is trying to say. There are a lot of things that can get in the way of this happening. Without blame to either party some of the ways this can be include: the hearer may be distracted and not able to fully listen, the hearer may stop listening part way through to start formulating their own defense or rebuttal, the words used by the speaker may conjure up different images and thoughts for the listener, the speaker may not really know what they are trying to say. For good communication, both of you need to be on the same page about what is being communicated.
For communication to be effective, the person hearing has to be able to hear what the person who is speaking is trying to say.
This is NOT a Second Honeymoon-- Christopher L. Smith
In the office, our marriage and family therapists often teach a technique called reflective listening. In its basic form (and this will help take your communication a long way forward) it looks something like this:
---One person gets to speak without interruption with the other person, just listening to what is said. Even though you won’t be interrupted, be sensitive about how much your partner can hear at once and remember to reflect back to you.
---When the first person is done, the other person does not get to ask questions, argue, put forward their ideas, or respond to what the first person said. So, what can they do? They get to reflect back the essence of what they heard. It does not have to be word for word but rather are what they think are the key things the other has said. Often these take the form of “What I heard you say was…”When the second person is done reflecting, the first person will either say that they got it or will offer clarifications or mention things the second person left out.
---When the second person is done reflecting, the first person will either say that they got it or will offer clarifications or mention things the second person left out.
---If there was clarification, the second person would go back to step 2 but only to reflect back the clarifications or corrections that were mentioned in step 3. This process continues until the first person knows that the second person heard what they were saying. At that point, the second person becomes the speaker (starting again at Step 1) and either respond to their partner, asks their partner a question, or moves on to their own point.
The basic flow is like a regular conversation with the additions of the reflections inserted into the flow. However, what this technique does is ensures that you are both part of the same conversation, let your partner know that they have been heard (which can feel so good), and can even stop arguments from starting when you hear everything the other person is saying. There is more power to this technique, but this is enough to really help you in these times. Here's the Book.
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