Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tip #18: Ideas for Building Successful Relationships

Pay attention to differences in your communication styles and make adjustments as necessary.

Matt and I communicate entirely differently. When we cook dinner together, for example, I usually gush about my day. I let him know about everything that frustrated me, made me elated, surprised me, or induced laughter.

Matt, on the other hand, is a listener. As a listener, he spends more time asking questions of others than actually talking about himself. Before I really gave it much thought, I assumed that Matt just didn't want to share all the ups and downs of his day. I assumed that he approached conversations the same way that I did: If he had something to say, he would say it. If he didn't have anything to say, then he wouldn't.

It's a dangerous combination because I could easily dominate all of our conversations with my own voice. I've had to realize that Matt actually does have a ton to talk about, but he needs others to treat him the same way he treats them: by asking questions.

So now I intentionally ask questions to get Matt to open up and share everything that he wants to share. I know it seems like common sense, but it took us awhile to realize and articulate our communication differences. He assumes that people don't want to hear what he has to say unless they ask about it. I've had to explicitly point out that I do want to hear what he has to say, but I don't always think to ask about it because I just assume that he will approach situations the same way I do. Each of us has modified our communication styles to equalize our sharing relationship: I ask him more questions; he makes an effort to share stuff without being prompted. It's definitely a work in progress (and an important one!).

What about you and your partner? Do you have different communication styles? How do you navigate those differences?

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megan said...

this makes me laugh because it's a common topic between my fiance and i. i'm like you, sara, in that i talk and talk and talk about my day, my thoughts, my comments, whatever. and my fiance is a listener. i always ask him why he's not talkinn back, and he says because he doesn't have anything to contribute. so when i'm quiet (because i feel like i'm dominating), he asks me what's wrong because he's used to my chattering. it feels like the scene in the borne movies where matt damon tells her to keep talking because he enjoys listening! my fiance does talk, but maybe i SHOULD start purposely asking more questions- should've been common sense, like you said.

Plus Size Bride said...

I just started to realize DH is that way too. He's so great about letting me vent (and there has been lots to vent about lately) but then he doesn't really say anything about his day so I try to ask a few questions to get him started and then he'll tell me about it.

Brittany said...

We are both talkers! I'll share about my day and then he will intrupt me and talk about his and then he will say somthing that reminded me about mine so then I will start talking. Needless-to-say, It's never quite at our house!

Mia said...

At home, it depends. Some days we are both talkers, some days I'll talk and he'll listen or vice versa.
Most of the time it's like you said!

When I got a problem, I "don't talk" anymore. He learned "me" and now he knows exactly what to do to make me talk about the things that are bothering me (work, family...). I admire him because I know that I'm though during these moments but he always finds The Way to make me smile!

Carrie said...

Communication style is something I think it takes a lifetime to really understand. My partner and I have been together for almost nine years. We can read each other very well. But there are still times when we struggle to communicate, particularly when one or both of us is upset or angry. It's a learning process. I can look back and see that we've learned a lot about how to talk to each other since the beginning -- but we still have things to learn.

On a daily basis, we both like to talk about things that interest us or things that happened. We really only have trouble when emotions run strong, because we both struggle with acknowledging and expressing negative emotions without hurting the other person.

Also, his natural pause between sentences is exactly as long as my "I'm done talking now, you respond" pause. So he'll say something -- pause -- I'll say the first syllable of a response, and then he'll say "And blah blah blah blah blah." Pause again, I again start to speak, and he'll say "But then blah blah blah."

I used to get angry and feel like he was rudely interrupting me, but I've realized that we just have different understandings of how long a pause should be before it's the other person's turn to speak. By the same token, I'll get done speaking and there will be a pause so long before he responds that I start to wonder if he was even listening. He was; he was just waiting for a long enough pause to signal that I was done talking. It's kind of hilarious that we still haven't gotten used to this after nine years, though.

It means Grace said...

I love to share anything and everything about my day, while my beloved waits for me to ask about his day (sometimes multiple times) before he shares. It annoyed me initially that he would wait to share big news-good or bad-with me unless I asked.

Since then, I have read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It helped me to realize that my beloved is expressing his love for me by listening. We speak very different love languages, but now that I know his is quality time, I do everything I can to love him the way it means the most to him.

Bryan said...

I agree with you completely!!!all the ways are very right for building a relationship....

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