When I ask couples about some of their concerns regarding their relationship, communication is typically one of the first things mentioned. They often say they feel so far apart when they attempt to communicate, especially certain intense topics.
When it comes to communication, I like to think of a continuum. On my whiteboard, I like to draw a line from one side to the other. One end of the continuum is ‘passive’ while the other side is labeled ‘aggressive’. We generally fall somewhere along this line. By nature, are you more of a passive person who would tend to avoid conflict, speak few words or are you more ‘aggressive’ by nature and love to talk, regularly engaging with others, love to hang out with others and are willing to engage in conflict. Yes, ‘aggressive’ just sounds so harsh. However, they do have really great things they can bring to the table when it comes to communication. And so does a more ‘passive’ person. Just because your partner is more ‘aggressive’ does not mean they are wrong. Neither is a ‘passive’ person wrong. They simply see things and approach things very differently. You can learn from each other and really take your communication to the next level and begin to bridge that gap.
A person who is more ‘aggressive’ can have some really great qualities. These people want to deal with the issue, they are willing to talk about it, they know what they want and are not afraid to ask for it. An ‘aggressive’ person is more passionate about getting to the bottom of the issue they are facing and are ready to tackle it, now! These are some great qualities, however, as you can probably guess, an ‘aggressive’ person typically struggles with HOW they say things. They can come across as mean, running someone over, full of an agenda, and sometime straight up rude!
Lets take a look at the other side of this continuum. A ‘passive’ person also has some great qualities as they are often very considerate, people of few words, not wanting to create undue conflict. I have discovered that ‘passive’ people think a lot before they speak, so their words tend to really have more power to it. I have a great friend and trusted leader that I respected more than most other men I knew. He was a man of few words, however, when he did speak, it was a very powerful message that I wanted to hear every word of. However, just as an ‘aggressive’ person has some struggles, so do ‘passive’ people. A ‘passive’ person can get easily frustrated and just shut down, can have a difficult time putting their emotions into words and come across as a pushover or someone who avoids sharing their emotions.
So what happens if you attempt to meet in the middle. This middle area of the continuum I like to call being ‘assertive’. An ‘assertive’ person takes the best of both worlds and combines them. They are not too aggressive nor are they too passive when it comes to communication. An ‘assertive’ person knows what they want or need in a situation and they know how to ask for this in a way that the other person is willing to hear them.
What a concept! What would happen in your communication if both parties were willing to talk about issues of importance? What if both spouses were willing to share their concerns in a way that their partner could actually listen (more on this later as well) without feeling cornered or pressured? What if you actually looked forward to coming together to talk about issues because you felt confident that your spouse would actually hear you? I know what would happen, this great divide would become much smaller. You would actually be able to communicate things without yelling over the other person.
I am far from perfect in this area, but I do try. Sometimes I succeed and my wife and I are able to communicate very well. And, well…other times I feel we are visiting the Grand Canyon, her on one side and myself on the other. I am only responsible for me and how I choose to communicate. Take the lead, initiate, get it on the table. Start bridging this great divide and start communicating.
- Where do you naturally fall on this continuum? Once you determine where you naturally land, begin to move towards that middle ground of assertiveness.
- How do you see you and your spouses differences in communicating styles getting in the way? How can you begin to see your different communication styles as complimentary and begin to learn from each other?
- How can you begin to see your different communication styles as complimentary and begin to learn from each other?
- Once this week, I encourage you to attempt to speak with your spouse using a more assertive approach. Remember, assertiveness is knowing what you want or need and knowing how to ask for it in a way that the other person is willing to listen.