Most people long to be engaged in whole-hearted relationships, especially during Valentines’ Day and other holidays. Unfortunately, many people experience loneliness even when they are in a relationship.
Loneliness in a relationship can be one of the loneliest places to be. Because you are in a relationship, you feel like you’re supposed to feel joy and connection and instead you feel social isolation. If this is your story, you’re not alone.
Did you know that there’s a loneliness epidemic in the world? In 2018 CIGNA did a study and found that 40% of Americans said they feel isolated from others and that their relationships are not meaningful.
If you find that you’re lonely in a marriage or dating relationship, chances are you can improve your situation by first taking 100% responsibility for your situation and second by cultivating effective communication skills.
First off, taking 100% responsibility means that you realize that you can’t control other people. You can, however, be in charge of yourself and make a choice to improve your own ability to build solid connections. One of the best places to start is by developing quality connection strategies.
In this VLOG we want to share 7 whole-hearted communication strategies to help you get started. The more you practice, the more effective you’ll become. If you are consistently making efforts toward quality connection, your partner is likely to notice and will most likely respond in kind so that ultimately, you can both enjoy more bliss in your relationships
Strategy #1 - Listen Attentively
The deeper you listen, the more fully you’ll understand. We call this active listening. The funny thing is, many people think they are listening tounderstand when in reality, they are really listening to respond. Active listening is about being deeply engaged to truly hear what the other person is communicating. This involves good eye contact, hearing the words they speak, listening for their tone of voice, watching for their body language, and perhaps most importantly, it means listening for the feelings behind the words. In other words, truly seeking to understand, without thinking of your own comeback response.
Strategy #2 - Active Constructive Response.
This is your reaction to what your partner has said. It starts with actively listening and then reflecting back and responding with interest and enthusiasm. Sometimes people are in a habit of shooting down people’s ideas and stealing their joy in the moment. It’s better to show support and help them savor their good news in that very moment. Constructive responders are also careful not to hijack the conversation and make it all about themselves. An active constructive response involves authentic listening, good eye contact, supportive reflection statements and responding with enthusiasm. Typical responses might be “Wow, that’s great news!” or “How did that make you feel?” or “What’s the best part for you?” Studies show that this type of response builds stronger bonds of connection.
Strategy #3 - Speak Generously of Others
One of the most effective ways to build a stronger connection is when your partner hears that you have said something nice about them to someone else, or if they actually hear you talking to someone else about how amazing they are. It’s the opposite of backbiting (which is so hurtful). Instead, you are speaking generously of them to someone else which is the ultimate compliment
Strategy #4 - Don’t try to have problem-solving communications when you’re depleted.
If you’re tired at the end of the day, if you’re feeling hungry, or if you’re under significant stress, these are not the times to have a meaningful conversation with your spouse. When you’re feeling depleted, you may find yourself not having the willpower, self-control, or patience needed to have a problem-solving discussion. If you need to have a crucial conversation with your partner, or with anyone for that matter, choose to do it when you’re well rested, well nourished, and feeling on top of your game.
Strategy #5 - Speak with Kindness and Gratitude.
Why is it that some people are so kind to perfect strangers yet with their own family, they speak in harsh tones and don’t take time to express gratitude? If you want your connections to be deep and meaningful, watch the way you speak and be sure to express appreciation. It’s a simple courtesy with powerful results! By the way, honey, thanks for helping me shovel the sidewalk after the snow storm yesterday!”
Strategy #6 - Be Positive, and Avoid Putdowns and Sarcasm.
Negativity in conversatios can be so hurtful. Instead, use Process Praise, which is about expressing appreciation or praise for something your loved-one has done or is doing. For example, “Thank you for always remembering to take out the garbage? Or “I really appreciate the way you appreciate me.” When you give process praise, you’re focusing on strengths, looking for specific behavior’s and then expressing gratitude for them. Instead of being vague, “thanks for your help.” You say, something more specific like, “Thanks so much. I really appreciated how you went out of your way to help me prepare for the party.” Conversations that include process praise are more likely to cause your partner to want to continue doing those things the things you appreciate. On the other hand, conversations of complaint and disapproval can kill the morale in your relationships and will most likely cause resentment but no positive change.
Strategy #7 - Use "I Feel" Statements.
We’re not saying that you should never talk about your feelings or about things that can be improved upon. The important thing is to do it in a more positive way. Instead of using statements of blame, such as “you never do such and such” or “why do you always (fill in the blank with something that bugs you). These types of phrases cause conflict because they feel like exaggerated accusations. It is better to first of all never say never and always never say always (these are usually the exaggerations). Instead of accusing, it’s best to use “I feel” statements. Avoid accusing your partner of doing things that bug you. Instead, you explain "I feel X when you do y in situation Z." For example: “I feel embarrassed when you tell other people that I don’t like to cook.”
Although it may not be possible to cure the world-wide loneliness epidemic single handedly, you can definitely make efforts to free yourself from social isolation and loneliness in your own life, just by incorporating these 7 simple strategies into your relationships. Be patient with yourself and remember that desired behavior changes take time and effort. The more you practice, the easier it will become. If you make a mistake and slip back into old habits, forgive yourself and strive to do better next time. Your self-awareness and commitment to change may be just the thing you need to be able to catch yourself in the moment and make a course correction.
So remember, these 7 simple strategies of whole-hearted communication: 1. Listen attentively, 2. respond actively and constructively, 3. speak generously of your partner, 4. don’t try to have crucial conversations when you’re depleted, 5. Speak with gratitude and kindness, 6. use process praise instead of complaints or sarcasm, and number 7. use “I feel” statements rather than blame.
As you take 100% responsibility for your relationships and your actions, you’ll very likely begin to notice that your spouse or significant other will soon follow.
So, if you want to be actively engaged in whole-hearted relationships, remember, the choice is yours! Choose to connect by communicating more effectively!