Tag Archives: partner communication

Communication tools for your relationship – What you need to know

The truth about "communication tools" and your relationship

The truth about “communication tools” and your relationship

Many client couples come to therapy in the hopes of achieving better communication (and thus more understanding and ease) in their relationship. This is a great motivation, and with the right kind of work much success can be achieved. But there’s a very basic and poorly understood fact about communication in relationships and the communication tools that are often prescribed:

We communicate precisely at the level of our personal development.

In fact, our quality of communication in any given moment is a direct reflection of who we are in that moment. What does this mean for the many communication tools, methods, models, and techniques that are promoted for helping relationships? Consider –

Communication tools only make a lasting impact on our relationship if using them changes us.

Put another way, it isn’t the tool itself that is valuable. It isn’t even how we use it (at least not in the long run). It’s who we must become in order to properly use any particular communication technique or method that makes the difference.

Again, a communication model or method doesn’t magically change our relationship. It only changes our relationship if it changes us inside, if it changes how we see ourselves and each other, if it nudges us along to the next rung of our personal development.

The value of a good communication tool or technique is not so much in the immediate impact it has on our partner (though that can be welcome), the bigger benefit is that to use any of the leading communication methods well and consistently requires us to “level up” in our personal growth.

Every popular communication method or tool that you learn in books, online, or in the therapist’s office – non-violent communication (NVC), reflective listening, active listening, empathetic speaking, love languages, “I”-statements, 24-hour rule, radical honesty, talking stick etc – have certain things in common; they help us –

What do all these qualities point us toward? What is the common thread?

In a word… maturity.

Using communication tools skillfully and consistently shapes us into more capable and mature people

The communication techniques, skills, and tools that we seek have one real purpose: using them forces us to develop more maturity in ourselves and in our relationship. With this maturity comes increased capacity for dealing with the inevitable and necessary challenges that a relationship brings. When a communication tool or technique fails to make a significant lasting impact it’s not just because you’re not doing it right, it’s because you’re not ready to let it change you. We “forget” to use our tools in heated moments not because we are forgetful, but because we haven’t yet changed ourselves to reflect the purpose, philosophy, potential, or world-view embedded within the tool or method.

This isn’t to say that communication tools and techniques aren’t valuable. They are, but for different and deeper reasons than most people initially understand. After the tool or technique has been integrated and internalized, after it has changed and matured us, then in retrospect we can usually see how it has done its work upon us, but when we are initially searching for solutions to acute relationship difficulties this truth remains hidden.

I’m sharing this in the hope of setting you up for better success when you go looking for tricks or tips to solving communication problems in your relationship (which I think is a good and worthy pursuit). As you practice new communication techniques and methods, try to feel how they are changing your outlook, let them be something that changes you from the inside out.

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Acro yoga – A different kind of date night

Acro yoga date nightAcro yoga date night

The other night I learned a little bit more about communication in relationships when my partner and I went to an acro yoga date night at our local yoga studio.

Acro yoga is short for acrobatic yoga and is also sometimes called partner yoga because it is designed for two people. Typically one person acts as a “base” and provides support to let their partner “fly.” At the event we attended, there was also stretching and some fun partner games.

It was two hours long, and everyone there was able to learn enough of the basics to have a good time. Our acro yoga experience was fun, playful, and physically engaging; all great qualities for a date night.

Acro yoga as relationship metaphor

It occurred to me as I looked around the room that I was seeing relationship dynamics in action all around me. Acro yoga was providing a metaphorical insight into the essence of each couple’s lives together.

It’s been said that how we do something is how we do everything, and an activity like acro yoga will often reveal the something we do that affects the everything we do, especially in relationship with our partner.

“We need better communication tools” is the refrain I hear daily from the struggling couples who call me for help. Partner yoga is all about communication, and it provides a format for practicing communication in an unfamiliar and neutral environment.

Acro-yoga requires qualities like trust, connection, surrender, leadership, collaboration, negotiation and personal responsibility. There’s a give/take sense of leading and following, of giving and receiving. A partner yoga class like the one we attended could very likely help someone see firsthand where they struggle with trust or other important areas of relationship, including –

  • Asking for what they want or making requests
  • Offering (or receiving) support
  • Working co-operatively
  • Dealing with frustration or failure
  • Tendencies to blame, shame, withdraw, or give up
  • Boundaries

If we’re able to use an experience like acro yoga (certainly there are many other experiences as well) to look at ourselves and our relationship, we might also be able to use it to work on ourselves and our relationship dynamic. The context of an acro yoga date night offers a possibility to first see things differently, and then to do things differently.

If the communication isn’t working there on the yoga mat, you’ll know quickly. Then you can use the space as a playground or laboratory to experiment with new approaches. It’s a relatively low-stakes situation, but it’s also visceral, immediate, embodied. You’re literally holding each other up. It demands your attention.

I’m not the only one who recognizes the partner communication benefits of acro yoga. I noticed that our teacher Katie Thacker was quoted in the news

“Just being able to say ‘hey that doesn’t feel good or that feels really great, or can you please bring me down?’ Being able to express things in those ways helps build communication.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Our teachers Katie Thacker and Brandon Sherbrook were great, and they offer their acro yoga date nights around Victoria and Vancouver Island (see their website here). If acro yoga holds any interest for you, look for classes in your area!

 

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