Relationships, Resources

Part 1: 3 Tips for Mind-Blowing Conversation

I once read a story about a bridge under construction where neither of the sides communicated with the other concerning their engineering and meeting point. When they got to the center, where both sides should have connected so the bridge could be functional, they were off by several yards, making the bridge and the project a complete failure.

This story is a perfect metaphor of the types of breakdowns couples have in relating to each other. A bridge should be a crossing point and connection of two sides, but often, like the bridge in the story, couples end up completely missing each other.

When couples come to my counseling office, I can predict ninety percent of the time what they’re going to say: “We can’t communicate.” For whatever reason, they’re missing each other on the issues. Often it’s not that they’re not talking—it’s that they’re simply doing a poor job of implementing good communication skills.

In this series of blog posts, I’m going to share 3 communication skills that I teach other therapists to help them authentically connect with people. When practiced regularly by couples, they produce mind-blowing conversations. These 3 tips will help you and your partner go deeper and authentically communicate with each other.

  1. The quality of your presence matters.

I realize using the term “be present” could sound cliché, but let me explain what I mean. Dr. Bruce Perry, a renowned psychiatrist and child development expert, once said that the social abilities of today’s 16-year-olds are at the level of development of past generations’ nine-year-olds due to their obsession with computer screens, phone screens, iPad screens, and hours of video game play.

My intention is not to knock technology. Like Napoleon’s brother Kip Dynamite, I sing its praises too. But all you have to do is take a look around the next time you go out to eat and notice the people who are sitting together with their faces buried in a screen, completely ignoring each other’s presence. What this suggests is that we’re behind on our skill of authentic connection. Let that sink in.

What Dr. Perry is saying is that more than ever before, we have a paradox occurring. We’re more connected with people around the world than ever before on a shallow level through social media, but we’re not truly connecting on deeper intimate levels and have less skill to do so.

Being present, therefore, looks different. It’s the act of giving someone your full attention, which includes using body language cues, such as making eye contact, facing the person, and showing gestures of understanding like nodding.

The bottom line is that the quality of our presence in communication matters.

The next 2 blogs will address increasing our skill of being present with people. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’re being honest with yourself, are you fully engaged when you communicate with others, or do you struggle with being distracted? How would your spouse rate your quality of presence? Leave a comment below!

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  • Reply Carson January 18, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    This is exactly what I have been trying to say to my boyfriend of 5+ years, but when I say it it comes off as mean and judgmental which makes him defensive and then it always ends in a fight. We actually almost broke up over this problem just last week and many times before that. Thank you for this post! I am going to share this with him so he can read it and assess our issues himself.

  • Reply Kyra January 18, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    When I go out to dinner with my partner, I do find myself glancing at my phone subconsciously as notifications pop up. This is definitely a bad habit I need to break. But if I am physically on my phone while we are at dinner, I usually engage him in what I’m doing. I’ll show him a funny post I saw today or a picture a family member posted as an emphasis to whatever conversation we’re having. Or maybe it’s a group chat we’re in and we’re both giggling as we respond to it, possibly pulling a prank on the friends in it. I’ve found that if the phones are incorporated into the interaction between us, it makes them less of a barrier.

  • Reply Merlenna Higby January 19, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    A good idea I heard is when you go out to eat with a bunch of friends (or have an office meeting), have everyone put their cell phones in the center of the table. The first person to touch their phone pays the bill. It really works! And I like this idea, vs people being stuck on their phones doing their own thing while we’re trying to communicate with them. Multi-tasking doesn’t work in this situation, no matter how much people want say it does for them.

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