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If You Want to Save Your Relationship, Be Willing to Be Vulnerable

If You Want to Save Your Relationship, Be Willing to Be Vulnerable

Does your relationship feel like “groundhogs day?” If so, you are probably experiencing never-ending, repetitive conversations that create a vicious, repetitve and toxic cycle with no solutions in sight.

Conversations to create clarity usually lead to more frustration with little hope in sight. When you are in this place, it’s important to consider how you want to proceed. Is couples therapy an option? Will it be worth the effort? Or, should you just let the sparks die and move on? I’ve always believed that every serious relationship experiences one monumental, penultimate moment in which the couple has a choice: do you choose to work through it and stay together, or have you accomplished all you can as a couple and it’s time to go separate ways.

Lets explore the possibilities to give you some insight into the different roads you can travel down and what they look like.

Couples therapy is for the ones who are willing to give their relationship a fighting chance.

Arriving at the realization that it’s time to get help for your relationship is not an easy one. While couple’s counselling is becoming less and less taboo, the idea of seeing a therapist can seem dramatic. You may not think your relationship warrants professional help. Maybe you assure yourself that it’s “not that bad.” But remember there are expert relationship counselors for a reason. It’s important to know that choosing therapy is not a way to get someone on your side and convince your partner you’re right and they should listen to you. Rather the point of couple’s counselling is to better understand yourself and how you behave in a relationship, while also learning more about your partner. Through therapy, the two of you would address the interactions and patterns that have led to the problems you face and hopefully look for solutions to remedy them.

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Accepting you need help can be challenging when you are very close to the problem. In fact, when you’re in the midst of the issue, it can be difficult to realize there is an alternative, let alone identify what got you to this point in the first place.

Of course, admitting that you don’t have all the answers requires humility. Admitting that you don’t know how to move things in a better direction will inevitably open the door to change. Often, most couples get in the way of their own change – usually unintentionally. So, if you (and your loved one) are willing to be vulnerable, you will give your relationship a fighting chance.

You have to be willing.

Couples therapy only works when a couple is willing to be “raw and real.” Your job is not to make the therapist think you’re a great girlfriend/boyfriend, etc. but rather to be as honest as possible in a safe space while a neutral party guides the conversation. Therapeutic change requires an interest to make your internal conversation external. Yes, your secret thoughts and inner conversation must be revealed.

Therapeutic change happens when a couple is willing to leave the comfort zone. What this means is embracing an openness to act in ways in your relationship that are different that you know yourself to be. Many patterns can be very hard-wired over time. Long-term change only happens when the “lens” that you both use to see one another begins to shift.

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In couples therapy, weekly interventions and experiential activities can begin the process of creating shifts. At first, the change may feel awkward and uncomfortable because you are introducing behavior that is new. It’s like beginning to go to the gym for the first time. Feeling sore and having some aches and pains is normal. It means you are pushing yourself. You are growing. All change requires discomfort. If you are open to experiencing new ways of being in your relationship the possibilities for change in couples therapy are endless. It all depends on you (and your loved one).

Couples therapy is worth it when couples are willing to make changes.

Your therapist doesn’t exist to “fix” your love. Your therapist cannot promise that he/she will be able to solve your problems. But the therapist can provide the opportunity to delve into issues without the fear of starting a nasty fight. While it would be nice if there was a magic fix to broken relationships, it just isn’t so. Couples therapy requires much footwork, patience and determination.

Now, this is not to ignore the reality that a couples expert should be highly skilled in knowing how to create therapeutic change. Both during a couples therapy session and outside the session there are countless ways to help couples create change and positive shifts in their relationship. The part that the therapist can’t control is the couple’s willingness to invite change into their lives.

Just like the gym example earlier, you can hire a personal trainer to help you create the kind of body you like but you have to be willing to put in the work. Many times, people ask for change and are simply not willing to place the effort and energy forth required to create shifts. You and your loved one have to want the change badly and be willing to do whatever is necessary to introduce change into your relationship. Its a process you engage in together and its critical that you work as “one” in order to create deep, lasting change.

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Couples counselling can heal relationships through improved communication, revitalizing emotional connection and renegotiating commitments to each other. No relationship is ever going to be perfect, but counselling creates the opportunity to find balance.[1]

Even if you really think it’s time to end the relationship, a counselor can help.

If you (or your loved one) are not sure if you care enough about the relationship to seek help, seeing a counselor can still help you have a clean, healthy breakup. Though it may seem counter-intuitive to see a counselor to help you end a relationship, the truth is that healthy breakups are much more valuable than dramatic, toxic ones. A counselor can help you evaluate what didn’t work in the relationship, ultimately helping you find a relationship that will work in the future. And if you aren’t sure if you want to break up or fight for your love, a counselor can still be helpful in helping you to identify what you need.

Make sure the therapist you choose intends to help you.

While there are plenty of therapists out there who would be more than willing to take your money and listen to you talk about your relationship problems, you need to make sure your therapist has receives specific training and is experienced in marital therapy. Make sure they have the intention of helping you and your partner find solutions in an unbiased way, rather than immediately jumping to assisting you in ending things. You also need to feel supported, respected and comfortable with your therapist. Sure, it may be awkward at first, but once that passes, you need to feel like you’re with someone who cares.

Make sure to set goals with your partner ahead of time. What is it you are trying to accomplish? Don’t just go in and start venting. Make sure the therapist knows what you are trying to work through. This will make everyone’s life easier. The best way to find the right therapist is often word of mouth. If any of your friends are in counseling with their partner, ask them who they use and how they like them. Don’t worry, everything is confidential, so no one will be spreading rumors.[2]

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As for cost, on average counselors charge between $75 and $150 an hour. It is recommended to attend therapy for three months with one session per week. If you feel like you can’t afford it, but you truly want a specific counselor, call and ask if they offer any type of discounts. The worst they can say is no.[3]

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] Marriage & Relationship Counselling Sydney: How Can Couples Counselling Benefit Our Relationship?
[2] Psychology Today: How to Choose a Good Marital Therapist
[3] HusbandHelpHaven: What is the Average Cost of Marriage Counseling?

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Heather Poole

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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