Communication with Your Partner
Most people agree that the ability to effectively communicate with others can have a huge impact on interpersonal relationships. Learning how to say what you mean in a way that others will understand can eliminate many stresses on relationships. Take a look at our favorite tips for general communication, communicating in disagreements, and communicating about sex.
In General Communication
Be Aware of Non-Verbal Signals. Our body language (e.g., facial expressions, posture, eye contact) all change the meaning given to our words. Our voice expressions (e.g., tone, volume, rhythm) all show the feeling in our words. Work to match your non-verbal communication with what you are saying so that your message carries the meaning of what you want. Indicate that you are paying attention by nodding your head or using brief statements. Do not interrupt when you are listening. Let the speaker finish speaking before you jump in. Keep an open mind and be non-judgmental.
Paraphrase and Ask Questions. Repeat back what you think you've heard someone say and use summary statements. Ask questions to clarify statements. These techniques help you to avoid misunderstandings.
In an Argument or Disagreement
Delay Your Reactions. Don't jump to conclusions. Give yourself time to process what was said and understand the speaker's feelings before you respond. Wait until you have all the information before you make inaccurate assumptions.
Don't Make Generalizations. Be specific and direct. Concentrate on this particular personal issue. Do not change the subject, stick to the issue until it is resolved.
Use "I" Statements. "I" statements help to express your own feelings, attitudes and desires. Using these types of messages will avoid putting the other person on the defensive. Saying statements such as "I am feeling unhappy…" allows you to express your feelings without criticizing the other person.
Discuss Abstinence, Sex, and Safer Sex. You have the right to decide whether or not you want to have sex, and you should discuss this decision either way. If you decide not to have sex, talk about this with your partner. If the other person does not respect your decision, then he/she is not respecting you. If you decide you might want to have sex, plan a time to talk about what you want before you are intimately involved. Be honest about your sexual history and your sexual health. Discuss and make mutual decisions on your safer sex options. Go together to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Seek Clarification. If you are getting mixed messages about what another person wants, especially if it is during sex, ask about these messages. It can be sexy to ask someone what she/he wants — be specific. If someone isn't sure whether they want to do something or not, assume the answer is no and stop. It is okay to wait until you are sure.
"NO" Can Be Said Many Ways. "No" never means "maybe" or "yes." Silence is not consent — if your partner is not responding, stop and ask whether what you are doing is okay. To give consent, a person must be physically and mentally capable of making the decision — if a person is unconscious, intoxicated, or under the influence of drugs, she/he cannot give consent.
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships
Being in a HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP means ...
- Loving and taking care of yourself, before and while in a relationship.
- Respecting individuality, embracing differences, and allowing each person to "be themselves."
- Doing things with friends and family and having activities independent of each other.
- Discussing things, allowing for differences of opinion, and compromising equally.
- Expressing and listening to each other's feelings, needs, and desires.
- Trusting and being honest with yourself and each other.
- Respecting each other's need for privacy.
- Sharing sexual histories and sexual health status with a partner.
- Practicing safer sex methods.
- Respecting sexual boundaries and being able to say no to sex.
- Resolving conflicts in a rational peaceful, and mutually agreed upon way.
- There is room for positive growth and you learn more about each other as you develop and mature.
If you are in an UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIP ...
- You care for and focus on another person only and neglect yourself or you focus only on yourself and neglect the other person.
- You feel pressure to change to meet the other person's standards, you are afraid to disagree, or your ideas are criticized. Or, you pressure the other person to meet your standards and criticize his/her ideas.
- One of you has to justify what you do, where you go, and who you see.
- One of you makes all the decisions and controls everything without listening to the other's input.
- One of you feels unheard and is unable to communicate what you want.
- You lie to each other and find yourself making excuses for the other person or to them.
- You don't have any personal space and have to share everything with the other person.
- Your partner keeps his/her sexual history a secret or hides a sexually transmitted infection from you or you do not disclose your history to your partner.
- You feel scared of asking your partner to use protection or s/he has refused your requests for safer sex. Or, you refuse to use safer sex methods after your partner has requested or you make your partner feel scared.
- Your partner has forced you to have sex or you have had sex when you don't really want to. Or, you have forced or coerced your partner to have sex.
- One of you yells and hits, shoves or throws things at the other in an argument.
- You feel stifled, trapped, and stagnant. You are unable to escape the pressures of the relationship.
From Advocates for Youth.
How to Be a Good Listener
WHAT IS ACTIVE LISTENING? The process of listening, clarifying, giving feedback, and self-disclosing. It involves the participation of both parties in verbal and non-verbal ways. Use of “I” statements is imperative.
MAKE EYE CONTACT: Be sure to look the speaker in the face most of the time, especially look at her/his eyes. If you forget to make eye contact, the speaker may think you are bored, withdrawn, or simply not listening. Also be culturally sensitive: some individuals may be uncomfortable with too much direct eye contact.
TAKE A LISTENING POSITION: Sit or stand in a comfortable position with your body aimed in the general area where the speaker is. Try to be in a relaxed position. Face the speaker and make appropriate eye contact. Be aware of other non-verbals: placement of arms, leaning forward when necessary, head nodding, degree of personal space, smiling.
PARAPHRASE THE SPEAKER’S MESSAGE: Paraphrasing means stating in your own words what someone has just said. Some common ways to lead into paraphrases include:
- What I hear you saying is…
- In other words…
- So basically how you felt was…
- What happened was…
- Sounds like you’re feeling…
The speaker then has a chance to know you have understood what she/he has said. This also gives the speaker the opportunity to try to make the message more clear if she/he doesn’t think you really understood. Also be sure to reflect feeling words.
ASK CLARIFYING QUESTIONS FOR UNDERSTANDING: If something the speaker says is unclear to you, ask her/him a question to get more information. Such questions make you an active, interested listener; the speaker can tell that you’ve been listening enough to have a question and care enough to ask. Ask open ended questions when you need more information, e.g., “Could you give me an example of when you’ve had difficulty talking to your professor?” Avoid the overuse of closed questions; these are questions that just require a yes or no response and tend to halt communication.
MAKE COMMENTS, ANSWER QUESTIONS: When the speaker stops or pauses, you can be a good listener by making comments about the same subject. If you change the topic suddenly, she/he may think you weren’t listening. If the speaker asks a question, your answer can show you were listening. Also, use silence to your benefit versus attempting to fill the conversation with constant talk.
PROVIDE APPROPRIATE FEEDBACK: Your students are likely to be interested and invested in your opinions and feedback. Monitor your reactions to what they have to say and give reactions in nonjudgmental ways. Feedback should always be given in an honest and supportive way.
EMPATHY: Recognize that everyone is trying to survive, get through school successfully, build a support network and deal with the demands of outside life. Sometimes is can be difficult to be empathic if we have had different life experiences or would try a different solution than those tried by our student.
OPENNESS: Listen with openness. Be a supportive, but neutral listener. This provides safety for self-disclosure and talk of emotional states. Be careful of judgments and stereotypes you have that block openness. Attempt to put yourself in the other person’s shoes in terms of trying to understand how they feel, while also not becoming consumed with their difficulties. Incorporate your own self-care so that you do not burn out.
AWARENESS: Be aware of your own biases. We all have biases-this is part of human nature. The key is to not let them get in the way of what others have to say. Try to fully understand the person and their context versus relying on just your personal experience to guide them.
BLOCKS TO LISTENING
THE SPEAKER’S CONTROL OF THE MESSAGE: A two-way flow of information keeps listeners focused and involved. If the listener can feel free to keep the speaker posted on what and how the listener is feeling and thinking, and if the listener feels free to break in from time to time to clarify, check out the message, etc. then the listener is more involved in the message and is more likely to listen well and attentively. Sometimes the speaker’s control of the message is too rigid and this blocks a two-way flow. Examples: lecturing, advice giving , reprimanding.
ASSUMPTIONS: Avoid clouding up your listening attention with assumptions about what the other person is trying to say, what they really mean, what they want the listener to do, etc. Assumptions are often not accurate and they certainly prevent the listener from focusing on what’s being said. If I’m assuming, I’m not listening.
BUZZ WORDS: Most people have private buzz words which have a definite emotional charge, sometimes positive, sometimes more negative. When listeners hear their own buzz words, they’re apt to reject or accept the whole message on the basis of their instant emotional reaction to the word or idea. When the buzz work hits, the listening stops.
SILENT COUNTER-ARGUMENTS: Listeners who find themselves challenged by what they hear may begin formulating their own counter-arguments while the message is still en route. The listener, though still apparently listening, has shifted focus to refuting what the speaker has “mistakenly” said.
DISTRACTIONS: Other things in the environment, in the listener’s own mind, various stimuli that get in the way to truly attending to what another person is saying.
INTERUPTIONS: In our haste to share our own ideas, we cut others off. Conveys to the speaker that you do not value what they have to say.
How to Cope with a Broken Romantic Relationship
You didn’t see it coming…the realization that "it’s over" just hit you…and it hurts. No one could have prepared you for the blow of losing the connection with another human being. Whether you decided to end the relationship or it was ended for you by a break up or death, you may experience symptoms of grief and periodic despair. It is not easy finding a path to true intimacy and then severing that bond with minimal impact. The foundation of love is sharing, trust, and intimacy. Inherent in that bond is a willingness to be vulnerable. Intimate vulnerability allows your thoughts and emotions to be expressed in the context of shared experience. When circumstances no longer provide a trusting environment for a bonding love, the separation can feel devastating.
In many cases, the partner is also the best friend. Coping with relationship loss can be particularly difficult if the couple has relied on each other as best friends. By having limited options to confide in, the ‘newly’ single person may feel isolated, lonely, and frustrated.
It took work to develop a bond between two people. With that bond being severed, it will take time to rebuild. If you find yourself watching the telephone in hopes of getting a call or listening to romantic songs as you reminisce about your ex and the way it ‘could have been’, you may be holding on and need to incorporate some strategies for transitioning to your new life of independence.
Coping with the Loss
- It is important to make time for the healing process. Too often, we are encouraged to be ‘strong’ and keep it all inside. This method only serves to keep the former loved one on your mind and you frustrated. There needs to be a grieving period. Whether you care to admit it or not, that person did mean a great deal to you at one time. You honor the love that you shared by validating the relationship as a worthwhile experience.
- Engage in ‘self-help’ practices. Some people benefit from reading self-help books. Others enjoy creative writing as a means of healing and expression. Find a way that complements your personality and do it! Whether it’s reading, writing, or singing, expressing your feelings is a great way to learn about yourself and your current needs.
- Realize that you might not be functioning at your best right now. Give yourself some space to ‘be’ without pressure or high demands. Efforts to organize the more routine activities of your life may be helpful to streamlining your energy expenditure. Do the activities that you need to and leave your remaining time for nurturing, self-discovery, and healing.
- Mobilize your support system. Spending time with affirming friends is essential at this time. In addition to venting your emotions as you sort through your next step in life, you can share the relationship’s shortcomings. Also, your friends can help you avoid an unhealthy reconciliation by providing true accounts of the circumstances.
- Use this time for self-renewal. When you are involved in a relationship, the other person receives your attention and focus. Being single offers you the opportunity to redirect that attention to yourself. Connect with areas of your life that have been neglected as a result of the relationship. Recharge your body through exercise. Reflect on your spiritual awareness and life journey. Replenish by engaging with nature. Renew your commitment to yourself to be the best person possible.
- Spend some time each day on something pleasurable. It is important to enjoy key aspects of your life while other components are mending.
- Highlight the reasons that the relationship was less than perfect. During times when loneliness sets in and the reason why the relationship ended may not be so clear, it may be helpful to review your thoughts from a more focused period.
Most research indicates that it takes about half the time the relationship existed in order to heal from the pain. Even then, many carry a portion of the painful memories for longer periods of time. Time does help ease the discomfort of relationship loss. However, it usually takes a while to feel better. Remembering the suggestions above may help as you patiently discover the relationship with yourself again.
This information was received from the University of Florida Counseling Center.
Students are taking advantage of technology to communicate in new and different ways. At the same time, it is important to understand how the technology may take advantage of you. Thinking through where and how information about you is made available to others can help you maintain the level of privacy you wish and increase your level of safety and security. Communal websites (e.g. MySpace, Facebook, Xenga, etc.) offer the attraction of being able to communicate with an ever-growing circle of friends and acquaintances. At the same time, they offer more opportunities for others to have and use information about you in a way you had not predicted or wished.
Here are a few things to consider when registering on a communal information site:
- Default security settings provided by these sites is relatively low because the sites assume that you want as many people to have as much information about you available as possible. If all you do is register for the site and provide the information they request, it is easy for third parties to find you and to know about you, based on the information you provide. If you choose to use one of these sites, it is important that you investigate the types of security settings that are available and to understand how you can control access to your information.
- What happens here stays here…forever! You must assume that information you post on your website will always and forever be available to someone. Even if you put up information which, an hour later you choose to remove, you must assume that, in that hour, someone has viewed that information, copied it, and posted or stored it elsewhere. It is probably better, in most cases, to be cautious about what you post about yourself and others. “Cute” or “angry” motivations for placing material on pages had led many to regret their decisions later, after they had time to think about and suffer the consequences of the ramifications of their actions.
- It is critical for you to understand that your friends may not have the same rules or concerns you have about who may obtain information about you available to them. More and more, students are finding that their friends have posted pictures and personal information about them on their pages which the student would never choose to put on his or her own page. For example, university police departments on several campuses have already used pictures posted by students on communal websites to identify and arrest students involved in illegal activities. Digital cameras and cell phones with cameras make it easy to record, upload and display events almost instantly.
- While communal websites portray themselves to its users as safe and secure, the reality is that they base these claims on the assumption that everyone using the site is honest and following the rules they have created. This makes them feel like they are being responsible. However, there are hundreds of cases of users creating accounts by lying about who they are. For example, some students think it’s “funny” or “cute” to use the information they have about others to create profiles for them, without the knowledge of that person. These profiles often contain false and damaging information for the unsuspecting student.
- An assumption is often made that information posted on personal websites is accurate and truthful. If you look for someone with particular attributes, you are running the risk that this person has developed an on-line “persona” that makes them feel better, but isn’t accurate or truthful. While it is certainly true that this happens in face-to-face communications as well, the internet makes it harder to have as many verbal and non-verbal cues available to help you make those decisions.
- Third parties are getting smarter about how to use information contained in these pages. Police departments and university administrators routinely use these pages to detect “problems” among students. These include illegal behavior, threats to others or self, violations of student codes of conduct, etc. In addition, potential employers are now routinely searching these sites as another way to gather information about the character of potential employees. There have already been documented cases of applicants being refused employment because of the websites they maintained which show them in a less-than-flattering light to employers.
The staff at Instructional Support Services is available to help answer questions you might have about internet safety and security issues. They can be reached by dialing 8-1-3971.
The TWU Counseling Center provides free and confidential counseling to currently enrolled students. Listed below are the telephone numbers for the Counseling Center.
In addition, our website contains information about our services, on-line assessments, on-line workshops, and other self-help materials.
Page last updated 8:10 AM, January 8, 2020