Years ago, when I was going through a rough patch at home, my mother told me that “if you want to study Communications, you better learn to communicate well”. I had honestly never considered myself a bad communicator – who does? – but from then on I became hyper sensitive in this regard.
Communication is one of those things that seems SO simple in theory, but is much harder to actually get right.
Over the past few months I’ve learned just how hard it is to do effective organisational communications properly – both on a company-wide scale and also at team level.
For me, it’s all about understanding. Getting the context and background; getting to grips with the why. Knowing where everybody is coming from and thus ensuring their concerns are addressed and their needs met. Otherwise, I reckon your chances of success are a lot lower.
While I’ve never been a manager – and have no desire to – I can understand why someone might feel compelled to micromanage. When you’re frustrated and not getting the results you need, I can see why your instinct might be to crack down.
Honestly, that has always been my MO relationship-wise. And unsurprisingly, it’s not always effective.
Even after almost a decade together, this was my brainwave on Friday morning on the bus to work last week. If I wouldn’t behave that way in a work context, why should I apply it to my partner?
Instead of snapping when I got home, I kept a lid on it. While I knew I would be justified in doing so, that didn’t mean it was the best way to get results. I approached things by asking, “What can I do to help you at this point?”
Magic. Of course, he knew I was doing as much I as I could. I didn’t even need to prompt the obvious next question – what did I need from him? He brought it up of his own accord, voicing all the things I needed to hear and that I had been thinking, without me forcing them on him. We both KNOW what I need, and he knows what he needs to do – and that he hasn’t been giving 100%.
Of course, I wish it hadn’t had to come to that. But no relationship is perfect, and I’m not going to pretend ours is.
The thing is, being in the right isn’t always enough. Going on the offensive will only lead to the other person getting defensive. As Dale Carnegie teaches, start by changing how you behave. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
Sage advice! It’s amazing how central good communication is to a good relationship–and how hard it can be to achieve. I like your approach of asking your partner how you can help. People love to be heard!
It’s true that we may want to take over from our partners when they don’t seem to be getting the job done. Long car rides are most conducive to these types of conversations, I find. People are more ready to talk when they know they won’t be interrupted. Otherwise, opening the vault can be painful if you know you won’t have a chance to close it properly, and risk leaving some exposed nerves open.
I work in communications, so +1 for how deceptively difficult it can be, even on a basic level. My ex and I were generally pretty good at communicating until, well, we weren’t, but even in the good days it would drive me crazy how communication was “my thing” (by virtue of being my job!) and it wasn’t his, therefore often making me look like the bad guy even if I was justified. (Not a good way to look at it, I know. But not sure how else to phrase it in a way that makes sense.)
Ohhh yes. Definitely realised this in the past few months – new role being a lot more collaborative and a lot more, especially ongoing, communication required, as opposed to the more transactional and one-off communications I’ve been used to.
I had communication theory in college. It really helps in communicating well to different audience when you have formal education in communication. But, the simplest process that you have to take in mind is linear relationship of the speaker, message, receiver, channel, and feedback. Now I miss school. 🙁
Lovely advice, and I’m glad it’s been working out well for you in practice 🙂
Ugh, E, I hear you. Communication is a a treadmill. It’s not like poof! one day you are good at it, it’s a constant effort. I’ve made many a communication mistake, many (dare I say most?) in my relationship with J, and I relapse often, but I try my best to remember what I’m aiming for.
I’m an engineer who fits most of the stereotypes that exist bout them, including not being very social and being very awkward when I have to be social. Communication doesn’t come naturally to me, and I like to hide behind email and writing instead of coming out face-to-face, not because I’m ashamed, but because I say things better in writing and speak poorly. So, I really appreciate this tip in your post. It would have never come to mind, and I’ll do my best to remember it if I’m ever angry at my boyfriend again.
I also prefer writing, and in the past I have written out letters to T because I didn’t trust myself to communicate as well verbally. Obviously a last resort though!
I am still struggling with this between my BF and I. I am not a fairly good communicator and most of the time when I do get frustrated – i tend to shut down. I am willing to try things to make it easier for me to just communicate openly and effectively.
I totally understand. I also clam up and shut down when I’m upset. It can be really frustrating for your partner!