Good communication and problem-solving skills are essential for successful relationships, but there can be an over-reliance on talking skills. There are seven basic principles or skill sets which are the building blocks of a healthy relationship. These foster emotional communication and are vital for building trust and commitment.
Over the last twenty years relationship therapists have been paying less attention to conflicts in relationship and paying more attention to the everyday interactions between couples. John Gottman and other researchers believe that patterns of everyday interactions between couples are often training grounds for how they will interact when a conflict arises. Conflict is inevitable and common in couples and can actually be a sign of a healthy relationship. Avoiding conflict or lack of disagreement can be a sign of trouble brewing.
Real intimacy begins when one partner shares something important to them and their partner responds to these “bids for emotional connection” in an interested way. These bids for connection occur hundreds of times during the course of a day. Turning towards your partner’s bids for emotional connection instead of turning away from them or turning against them, is a key magic ingredient for building up the emotional bank account between partners.
The basic units of emotional communication during everyday interactions have been called the bid and the response. It is by studying these important bid-response patterns that researchers can now predict relationship separation with uncanny accuracy.
Emotional communication is when a couple creates relationship-relevant meaning between them for the purpose of maintaining their connection. This can be sharing a special song, giving a smile, sharing a laugh, bringing a small gift, touching in respectful and caring ways or helping your partner in small, meaningful ways. All these are relevant for them as a unique couple. This type of communication is the life-blood of a relationship. It allows shared meaning and emotion to flow and grow between the partners.
Paying attention to each other’s ways of trying to connect is what’s important. It doesn’t necessarily have to be deep and meaningful communication. You don’t even have to agree with each other. The most important thing is how you pay attention to each other.
This is the start of an interaction with your partner. It’s a way of communicating, either verbally or nonverbally “I want to be connected to you”. Nonverbally it can be a flirty or playful touch, a facial expression or a sound – like a sigh, a laugh even a snort. Verbally it might be a question, a comment, a clear invitation or just sharing a feeling or thought.
This is how you react to the bid. You can let your partner know that you are paying attention and that you care about the bidder. You can turn toward by acknowledging your partner’s comment, making eye contact, or touching your partner’s hand. If you ignore your partner’s statement, or avert eye contact, you are turning away. By giving a critical or contemptuous response, you are turning against.
SUCCESSFUL CONNECTION STRATEGIES
There are many elements which make up successful communication. The following strategies are ones used in relationships that work.
- Keep it clear. You don’t have to do it verbally or even directly, but is it important that you clearly show your desire for emotional connection through your bids and responses. Research shows that those who are clear about their need for connection are more likely to get positive responses. This also goes for those whose responses clearly support connection.
- Keep it soft. If you become good at using a “gentle start-up” when initiating a bid for connection, you will generally get a more positive response from your partner. If you use playfulness and humour in a way that your partner “gets”, your relationship is more likely to last.
- Keep it safe. Your ways of interacting contributes to the emotional temperature of your relationship. Healthy relationships focus on creating an atmosphere of validation and mutual care. Examples are: being mostly engaged with your partner instead of withdrawn or avoidant; validate their feelings and thoughts, being comforting and non-judgemental, even if you don’t agree with them.
- Keep it positive. Having a majority of your interactions being positive is important if your aim is to bring about emotional connection. The general emotional atmosphere of your everyday interactions sets the likelihood that you will be more positive towards each other, even during conflict. Care about how your partner’s day went, try to make your partner feel good about themselves, be romantic and fun with your partner. During a disagreement, be co-operative and respectful. See if you can understand your partner’s perspective before you put your own view across. Being responsive in a positive way means being attentive of your partner’s need for connection. It does not mean having to agree or say yes.
Good communication takes practice
As you can see, it requires work to build a successful relationship. Part of this work is learning to develop effective emotional communication skills. It isn’t just about exchanging messages and information. In addition to the content of the message, emotional connection happens during the bid and response of communication.
You may need help in becoming aware of the patterns of communication between you. You might want to learn to structure your bids and responses so that they build real intimacy between you. Effective communication involves a series of skills that you can develop and practice. The more you use them the easier they become. And the more emotionally connected your relationship will feel.
You deserve the best trained relationship coaches if you’re planning to invest time and money in your relationship. If you’re not ready to book an appointment, call us on 0421 961 687 to book a FREE 10 minute phone consultation to discuss how we may be able to assist you.