There are times when the art of communication is extremely important, and the consequences of not expressing yourself accurately can cost you someone you love. I have a huge problem of not communicating very well. It usually does not affect me daily, but when conflict arises I tend to shut down. There are major problems with the “shut down” method. Once I shut down, I do not voice my opinions or feeling on the issue at hand. Another dilemma I find myself in is speaking without thinking through the thought. I just blurt out whatever is on the tip of my tongue and ignore all reason.
The time I find this most detrimental is when communicating with my husband during conflict. We have devised a plan to help with our lack of good communication skills. Due to the problems we have communicating, we have decided to communicate through writing when tensions flare up. We first noticed we had a problem with communication when a simple discussion would turn into an hour argument. Take for example the money issue. We would set aside time to talk about our finances or lack of, and some how it would turn into a finger pointing argument.
After the dispute was over we could look back and see exactly how it transpired. My husband is very direct. He tells it like it is all the time. I would take his directness as accusations against me and in return become very defensive. I would try to say how it was not my fault, by blaming him or just claiming no part in the problem. My husband reads into my body language and feels that I am secretly giving him the finger. Once he feels I have blown him off, he gets really angry and goes on and on, while I implement the “shut down” method until we have cooled off.
As the years past, we could see how our problem with communicating was killing our marriage not to mention wasting a lot of time and disturbing our little girl. We love each other very much and have vowed to fix our problem. We have tried several different approaches and most of them failed. On one occasion we tried to take time to cool off before discussing anything. This approach failed because we could not decide when we needed time to cool off, and by the time we did it was too late. The heated argument had begun. Then, we tried to let each person have a certain amount of time to talk without interruptions.
He got a chance to voice his side and afterward it was my turn. This always failed because if someone said something the other disagreed with they would interrupt to input their thoughts. We have found something that seems to solve our problem completely. When an issue arises and we feel strongly about it, instead of talking about it, we write it down. When we were forced to write our ideas down we were required to think about the words we put down on the paper. This approach has been very successful for many reasons. We had to calm ourselves down and think about the real issue of debate.
We essentially added an extra step into our communication process. Instead of just blurting out whatever was on our mind, we had to think, write, and think some more. Writing the problem down let us have a second chance to review it before we handed it to the other person. It also gave us an opportunity to throw out the whole thing due to the ridiculousness of the subject. However, when we spoke verbally we rarely got the chance to go back and say something different. When we read the written words there was no body language or tone of voice to accompany them.
We were left with the dry words there in front of us. We could read them many times before we had to respond, which helped us to make an informed response. I can not remember how many times I have had a disagreement and could not remember exactly what was said. With this system we had a tangible copy of the discussion and there was no question who said what. Most importantly, this form of discussion has shielded my children from seeing or hearing their mother and father fighting. This new way of discussion has helped our marriage tremendously.
No longer are we arguing about who said what or how they came across when they said it. Now we silently discuss the issues that need our attention, and there is no mud throwing. I believe in the long run this will help us with verbal communication, as well. When you are constantly thinking about what to say and how to say it there is no better way to practice than writing it down. I believe there are things worth fighting for and your marriage is one of those things, so I will try anything to keep it alive, including finding smarter, more efficient ways to communicate.