Go One Step Deeper than Good Communication

Go One Step Deeper than Good CommunicationIf you spend even a little time reading up on what makes a relationship work, you’ll come across a lot of advice on improving communication. Happy couples have good communication, right?

Well, yes. But are they happy because they have good communication, or do they have good communication because they’re happy?

A recent study from the University of Georgia[i] confirms that good communication and romantic success DO go hand in hand. But good communication seems to be a side effect of relationship success, not the reason for it.

Think of it like this.

If you’re fit and healthy, you likely exercise and eat right. While being in shape makes it easier to choose to hit the gym, you don’t work out because you’re already in shape. Rather, being in shape is one of the results of regular exercise and a smart diet.

Good communication happens when there’s already a special foundation built on something deeper than just conversation. To go beyond mere communication, you need a unique and powerful kind of intimacy.

Psychologist Douglas LaBier calls this level of romantic intimacy “Radical Transparency.”[ii] Radical transparency happens when two people are able to really be themselves around each other, totally open and honest at all times.

If you want to take your relationship to that level, you’ll need to do two things.

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One Response to Survive and Thrive Under Criticism

how to respond to criticismKaren thought it would bond them as a couple. A weekend workshop devoted to developing greater intimacy? Bring it on!

But on the afternoon of the second day, her world turned upside-down.

The topic was how to give feedback instead of criticism. The facilitator asked each couple to turn to one another and state the 3 things they most liked about the other person as well as the 3 things they most disliked.

Her heart was pounding as she told her boyfriend she’d go first. “What I like most about you is that you’re thoughtful, handsome, and loving.” She paused, trying to think of some gentle feedback that wouldn’t hurt his feelings.

“I wish you’d clean up after yourself more. I wish you’d be available more, rather than working so late. I also wish things were more romantic, like they used to be.”

He smiled and nodded warmly. She felt a rush of relief. This wouldn’t be so bad. “Okay, your turn,” she said.

“The three things I like most about you are that you’re beautiful, you’re warm and caring, and you make my life better.”

Karen’s heart soared. She grasped his hand tightly. “Thank you,” she whispered.

“The three things I like least about you,” he continued, “are that you’re always getting after me for things in a way that doesn’t feel respectful. You have really high standards, which are great, but it makes our life stressful in a way it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes I don’t think you really see what you’re doing. You think you’re being positive when you’re actually bringing everyone down.”

What?

How could he say that? After that moment they’d just had?

Even worse, he was smiling, as if what he said had been kind rather than completely devastating.

Karen jerked back her hand. She scooted her chair away from him. Through the white noise ringing in her ears, she could hear him ask, “Honey, are you okay?”

But she wasn’t.

And she wasn’t sure if she’d ever be again.

In all relationships, there are some things better left unsaid.

Like what you really think of his crude best friend, or his parents’ Christmas gifts.

But giving and receiving feedback is essential to healthy relationships.

So I’m going to suggest one simple phrase for responding well.

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Use Moments of Awkward Silence for a Surprising Advantage with Men

how to deal with awkward silenceWhat feels like an awkward silence to you might not feel that way to a guy.

Let me show you why.

Let’s look at a sample conversation where two people are trying to make a connection.

MAN: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a neon pink-orange drink before.

WOMAN: I know, right? It’s like radioactive Kool-Aid. But it tastes amazing!

MAN: (laughs) It is like radioactive Kool-Aid. I feel like the Kool-Aid Man is gonna burst through the wall any second.

WOMAN: (laughs) Right? Me, too.

Both laugh. Pause.

WOMAN: I’m Julie.

MAN: Oh, right. Ken.

WOMAN: Nice to meet you.

Pause.

WOMAN: And what are you drinking?

MAN: Water, unfortunately. My friends picked me as the designated driver.

WOMAN: Good for you. Better for them, but good for you.

Man laughs. Pause.

WOMAN: So what do you like to do when you’re not asking women about their drinks?

Pause.

WOMAN: You know, for fun. Or work. Or, just, whatever.

Pause.

WOMAN: Like, for example, I’m failing horribly at learning to play the guitar. How do people do it? They make it look easy, but let me tell you it is not…

This isn’t an awful conversation. There’s some banter. Maybe some chemistry.

Ken has no problem getting Julie talking. And she always seems quick with a reply.

But Julie does have some trouble there at the end.

Those pauses! Were they bothering you? Because they’re clearly killing Julie.

Whenever there’s dead air, she has to jump in. By the end, it seems like she’s taken it upon herself to keep the conversation going.

That’s a good thing, right? Not necessarily.

If you follow my blog, you already know you want to get the other person talking. This is true even if there are lulls in the conversation.

I’m going to explain why those lulls can actually be a good thing. But first, let’s understand why they happen.

There are the obvious reasons, of course. People don’t know what to say. They get intimidated. They get stuck in their head.

But science says there’s another reason for lulls when men and women talk: On average, women’s brains work faster than men’s.

It has to do with how our brains are set up. Which parts we use in conversation.

It’s not important to know the exact details. But you should know that these differences mean men can be slower to respond in conversations.

So those seemingly interminable pauses? It might just take his brain longer to think of a response.

Which brings me to why lulls can be good.

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How Excuses Reveal Hidden Relationship Problems

relationship excusesExcuses rarely make anyone feel better.

I’m sure you’ve experienced the frustration of hearing an excuse when you try to point out a problem to your boyfriend.

Sure, there are times when it’s perfectly valid to offer an excuse. I mean, come on…sometimes the traffic really was horrible. Or you legitimately didn’t have time to call.

But most of the time we make excuses to protect our egos. Rather than admitting we made a mistake, we justify poor choices.

That strategy just doesn’t work well in relationships. Because a pattern of excuses will drive a wedge between you and your partner faster than the Kardashians can spin family drama into a new reality show.

Relationship excuses erode trust.

Just like you, your guy can tell when he’s not getting the full story.

So, before you give your guy an excuse, ask yourself the following two questions.

  1. DO I SOUND LIKE A BROKEN RECORD?
  2. IS THERE ANYTHING UNDERNEATH THIS EXCUSE?

Let me show you why these two questions will send your relationship in the right direction.

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