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Several years back I was working with a couple who were struggling with their communication. I taught them about the importance of taking responsibility for the words they chose when communicating. This becomes very difficult when triggered. I taught them how important it is to try to take a break or a pause when they feel their energy rising. Otherwise they will find it impossible to speak responsibly and carefully. 

In order to practice personal responsibility, your actions, words and feelings must be measured and shared from a place of deep honesty. You must be honest with yourself so that you are able to in tune with your own feelings, wants, and needs, no matter what they may be. While this can feel risky or scary at times, it is essential for you to communicate clearly and with integrity in your relationship, and for your partner to better understand how you are feeling; a key component of every healthy relationship.

A strategy I like to use for implementing personal responsibility in how you present yourself is ‘CLEAR’ communication, which stands for conscious, loving, encouraging, authentic, and respectful.

Conscious communication is being responsible, mindful and deliberate in speaking as well as listening. What you say and how you say it is of vital importance. Consider your words beforehand and understand what emotions they may evoke in the person you are speaking to. This is something few people do today, often resulting in prolonged circular arguments among couples and feelings of frustration that could have otherwise been avoided.

Effectively speaking consciously means being able to listen consciously as well. This is active listening versus passive listening. This requires paying attention to what your partner is saying in the moment rather than thinking about how you are going to respond. Our brains are often distracted or seeking to validate our own perceptions, so this can be easier said than done. If you notice you have drifted away from active listening you can get back on track by admitting having drifted off and asking your partner to repeat themselves. Using the ‘mirror technique’ is another way you can ensure your partner’s voice is being heard. Repeat back to them what they’ve said to you and ask if you’ve heard correctly. This allows for clarification in the moment if need be.

Loving communication is not simply verbal affection, but rather communicating with your partner from a place of love. The end goal is connecting and sharing your love for one another effectively while sharing your perspectives, needs, desires and requests in a way that works well for all involved. The opposite of this would be speaking to each other in a competitive manner, essentially keeping score and trying to prove that you are right. All this does is harm your relationship and create tension when arguments arise. This is when being right seems more important than being in harmony.

Encouraging communication is speaking in a way that is inspirational to your partner, encouraging them to be the best version of themselves they can be. This type of language builds relationships and creates a stronger bond between partners. A great example of how inspirational and encouraging language supports joint outcomes can be found the metaphor of team sports. When teammates do well, we cheer. When they make a mistake, we call them up to remember their greatness and encourage them to stay in the game and try again. As a couple, you are playing together on the same team, not against each other. Speaking in a discouraging manner is a mutually detrimental practice that will only prevent your relationship from growing. Remind your partner just how valuable they are and how much they mean to you.

Authentic communication is just that; speaking truthfully and honestly. Hiding how you truly feel and what you are thinking is only going to create unhealthy boundaries in your relationship. Tell your partner what you are looking for and how you are feeling while being mindful of your exact words and their possible impact. But take note, it can be easy to fall into the trap of communicating in a manipulative way, phrasing your words just to get what you want. Authentically communicating with kindness is the goal. Being kind and thoughtful is the opposite of manipulation. It is about wanting the communication to be successful, the connection to be strong, not necessarily about a particular outcome. 

Respectful communication falls more in line with knowing what not to say and understanding when it should not be discussed. For example, personal conversations in a public place, sore subjects, or referencing a past trauma that may evoke negative feelings. Be aware of your motives before bringing up something that might not be taken well. From a gender perspective, a man may try to control the conversation in a misogynistic way, speaking down to women, while a women may attempt to emasculate men to gain the upper hand. Speak equally and with respect.

To learn more about Tj Bartel and how he helps men and couples create more harmonious, deeply intimate relationships, visit his coaching website.