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Attack the Message, Not the Messenger


Relationships are challenging! Relationships require work and perseverance, whether it is a parent-child relationship or husband and wife, coworker to coworker, or coworker to supervisor. One of the most needed areas of improvement is in communication. Here are a few ways to assist communication in any relationship.

  1. Timing: Ensure the timing of essential conversations or conversations that may lead to discord occurs at the proper time. Each person must understand their biological clock. For example, after early mornings while trying to prep for work or directly after working/school days usually aren't the best times. Children and adults need time to unwind from the day, and mornings are generally too hectic and will not leave enough time to complete conversations. Trying to be attentive to work or school details after a challenging conversation will be difficult for all involved. Plan a time to have conversations as much as possible. Do not text as this leads to many misunderstandings and intrudes on a person's daily demands.

  2. Use reflective listening: The goal of communication is to understand. In reflective listening, the receiver listens to the sender of the communication. The receiver paraphrases the message or mirrors, repeating what the speaker stated. For example, "What I hear you say is you felt as though I made you late for the program." If the speaker denies the statement, then ask to restate. Do not get caught up in trying to prove what the message was. The goal is to understand what the speaker attempts to communicate clearly.

  3. Acknowledge the feelings: Focus on the person's feelings. Allowing a person to own the emotion validates their feelings. It does not make one right or wrong. Say, "You feel neglected." Stating the feeling removes fault from either the speaker or the receiver. Disregarding a person's feelings or arguing often leads to side-tracked conversations without resolutions.

  4. Plan for disagreements: I met my husband's grandmother on my wedding day. As I leaned over to hug her, she stated, "It takes two to argue." Although her timing was questionable, the statement was valid. In honesty, I thought her approach to an initial encounter was rude. You will disagree in healthy relationships, so plan to disagree respectfully. Create a time-out signal. I am currently reading, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. The couple uses their wedding date as a signal. Perhaps a color or birthdate will signal to take a predetermine timed break for children. If longer is needed, table the conversation. Agree to attack the message, not the messenger. Find solutions to the problem.

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