Have you ever wondered how you and your partner can be dealing with the same conflict, but somehow end up on two entirely different pages?
When you’ve tried your very hardest to explain your point of view only for it to fall short, you may be dealing with different communication styles.
There are two different kinds of communication - verbal, and nonverbal. Each is equally important and can cause major dysfunction if not addressed properly.
Are relationships made up of different styles doomed to fail? Let’s talk about how to merge and navigate opposing communication styles so you and your partner can get back on the same track.
The Four Main Styles of Communication:There are four main styles of communication, and understanding which one you are, as well as which one your partner is, can make the world of a difference.
It’s important to note, most of us use a combination of these four depending on the situation at hand. When researching, try to hone in on the one you use most when around your partner or handling conflict within your relationship.
Passive Communication:Verbal: If you or your partner often dismiss your own wants/needs in order to keep the peace, you may have a passive communication style. In this form, individuals are hesitant to give their opinion, make decisions, voice their concerns, or speak about their feelings.
Physical: They may have a hard time making eye contact or look down often during conflict.
Example: “I don’t care where we go to eat, It’s up to you”.
Verbal: On the flip side, aggressive communicators will voice their opinion and feelings with great intensity and as soon as they occur. These individuals will speak out at the expense of others and will get defensive if confronted.
Physical: They may cross their arms, roll their eyes, or point their finger during conflict.
Example: “It’s my way or the highway”.
Verbal: If you or your partner seem passive on the surface and fail to speak out about your needs, but then act out in subtle angry ways, you may be dealing with passive-aggressive communication. These individuals don’t openly voice their feelings or opinions but rather lash out behind the scenes. Another method of passive-aggressive communication is sarcasm or avoidance of the conversation.
Physical: Sneering, rolling their eyes, or pouting after conflict.
Example: “I’m not mad - I’m fine.” (Despite body language saying otherwise).
Verbal: Known as the healthiest form of communication, these individuals are able to clearly state their feelings, emotions, opinions, and wants/needs without undermining another persons. They display clear, honest communication and expect the same in return.
Physical: Consistent eye contact, straight posture, and relaxed gestures.
Example: “While I respect your opinion, let’s agree to disagree”.
How To Handle Two Different Communication Styles:Now that we’ve discussed the four different communication styles, let’s talk about healthy ways to manage your unbalanced relationship.
Pause Before You Respond:It’s always a good idea to think before you speak, however in a relationship with different communication styles it’s imperative. Saying whatever comes to mind can make matters worse and leave the situation even more frustrating than it was before.
No matter what communication style each partner has, it’s important both people feel seen and heard. This can be done by taking a step back and processing what was said before you decide to respond.
Reflect Back:In the heat of the moment, it can be easy to run rampant with accusations, confrontations, and blame/shame. Instead of immediately reacting, reflect back to your partner what you’re hearing.
Try saying, “So, what I’m hearing you say is…” From there, your partner can either confirm or deny your perception of what they said. This way, there’s no misinterpretation going on and you can move forward in the conflict with better clarity.
Validate Their Feelings:Many couples can become tangled in conflict when they don’t feel as though they’re being heard. Everyone wants to feel as though their emotions are valid, no matter what kind of communication style they have. This is an important step in helping diffuse conflict and ease tension.
When your partner gets upset, they may begin to voice their frustration in different ways. Rather than give excuses or explanations, validate how they’re feeling at the moment.
Practice An Assertive Communication Style:Being assertive (without being aggressive) is the best way to communicate in a relationship. This way, both partners are voicing their needs without feeling like they’re sacrificing their feelings for another person. Being passive-aggressive is a common format many couples tend to lean back on. One partner may feel hurt yet lack the ability to speak up about it for one reason or another. Instead of confronting the other, they instead subtly hold a grudge until it bubbles over.
Key Takeaways For Couples:So, is your relationship doomed if you have a different communication style than your partner? No! It may be more difficult, but if both you and your partner are on the same page and motivated to resolve conflict in healthier ways, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. First and foremost, educate yourself on the different communication styles so you can identify when you’re resorting to unhealthy habits. When conflict does arise, be slow to speak until you’ve been able to think through and process what your partner is saying.
Communication is key, but it’s up to you and your partner to turn the knob.