2020 has been quite a year. The coronavirus and social injustice movements have caused a lot of unrest, uncertainty and discomfort in our world, country and most importantly our homes- which makes practicing effective communication techniques a part of any healthy relationship when there is a disagreement.
With anxiety levels running high- combined with the fear of the unknown- we were asked to stay in our homes which meant spending more time than usual with the ones that we love. We hunkered down and managed the best that we could until the trickling of reopening started coming in and exposing us to an all new unknown. Just as the country started reopening again- social injustice movements, protests, and riots have started forming in cities all over the country and the globe. There is much unknown and no clear answers on how to feel or how to proceed. So what do we do if the way that we feel or the way that we feel like we should proceed is different from our partners? Differences of opinions are normal within relationships, with two individuals coming together. But what do we do when we disagree on some pretty important topics? Read on below for 5 tips on effective communication techniques for partners who disagree on current events:
1. Listen as Much as You Speak.
When we have conflicting beliefs with our partner it can sometimes feel like more effort is put on defending our stance rather than listening to their opinion. Listening is an essential part of effective communication. When we are truly present, we can really take in and consider what our partner is saying instead of quickly formulating a defensive response. We lose valuable information when our mind is too busy formulating a response rather than taking in information.
2. You Are on the Same Team.
When we have differences of opinion with our partner it can sometimes feel like we’re fighting against each other to get our thoughts, feelings, and perspectives communicated. But at the end of the day this is a great opportunity to remember that it is the two of you versus the issue and not the two of you versus each other.
3. Throw Out the Rigidity.
When we are communicating with our partner in times of distress or turmoil- it can feel like our fight, flight or freeze response kicks in- and, well, that’s because it has. This causes us to focus on ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘good’ or ‘bad- to have a more narrow view’. However, when we are talking about ways to handle the stressful situations we’re faced with right now there is no right or wrong. Remember: both sets of thoughts, feelings and opinions matter when trying to use effective communication techniques.
4. Find Compassion in Your Partner’s Experience
When we have a difference of opinion with our partner, it may actually be a difference of experience. Use this conversation to lean in with compassion to your partner’s experiences. They may have been exposed to a different experience regarding these topics than you. Their fear, concern, frustration or anger may not be from an “opinion” but from an “experience” they have had. Approach these conversations with compassion and curiosity towards your partner’s experiences.
5. Not EVERYTHING Can Be a Priority
We are in a global pandemic as well as a national crisis- safety needs to be the priority right now. When you are having disagreements or conversations with your partner about what to do and how to do it, remember that not everything can be the priority. It’s important in times like these to filter out the chatter and stories our mind is telling us. Focus on finding a priority or two you and your partner can agree on- then start making plans from there.
There is no guidebook for this. There is no road map, no example of how to do this “right”. There is just right now- you and your partner coming together to address some serious topics during a difficult time. If you find yourself struggling with communication, maybe a professional can help. A relationship coach, a counselor or therapist can help mediate the space between and educate you on effective communication techniques. Remember that you are a team- and at the end of the day: listen, find compassion and lean on and into each other.