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How to Break the Patterns of Communication in a Relationship

by Dr. Carol Morgan , studioD

Communication skills can make or break a relationship. According to the article, "Learn to Communicate" on Powertochange.com, relationships that are difficult or broken can be repaired by acquiring healthier communication behavior. Once people understand the power of breaking their bad habits, they can work actively to implement new ones. All it takes is a decision by both people to change.

Become Aware of Your Patterns

You cannot change what you don't recognize. Therefore, the first step to breaking negative patterns of communication is discovering what problems you have with the other person, according to the article, "How Couples Can Move Beyond Negative Relationship Patterns" on GrowingAwareness.com. Sit down with the other person and reflect back on an argument you may have had in the recent past. Taking turns, go through the problem objectively, step by step, and talk about what happened in the interaction. Don't get caught up in arguing about who is right and who is wrong. Instead, focus on the other person's emotional experience. Only define your experience and allow your partner to do the same.

Stop Being Defensive

Although it may be a natural instinct to defend yourself, it rarely has a positive effect on the relationship, according to the psychotherapist Carey Cloyd in her article, "Healthy Relationships: Understanding Negative Communication Patterns" on NetworkTherapy.com. Being defensive is the same as blaming your partner, because you are implying it is his fault, not yours. Here is an example. If you are married, and your spouse says, "Wow, the house is a mess," your instinct might be to respond with "Well, I'm not the only one who lives here! Why don't you clean it once in a while!" If you notice yourself becoming defensive like this, think before you speak. Instead reply with a message such as, "You're right. Maybe we could come up with a plan for how we both can contribute to cleaning the house more often."

Stop Criticizing

Carey Cloyd points out that it is natural to have some complaints about your partner. However, when people take criticism to the level of personal attacks, this has a negative influence on the relationship. It is important to separate the behavior from the person. Instead of saying, "You are so lazy! You don't ever do anything but watch TV on the couch," you should try saying, "Honey, maybe we could go do a fun activity together tomorrow, or maybe complete a project around the house." The latter statement suggests a positive improvement in behavior without saying there is something wrong with your significant other.

Be Careful with the "Raw Spots"

Everyone has topic areas that are touchy for them. Whether it is their lack of education, their weight or their age, people have some sensitive areas in which they might become defensive. In the article,"Negative Communication Patterns: Recognizing and Managing Raw Spots" on Victoria Counseling Solutions the author suggests that people stay away from those troubled "raw spots." However, sometimes they can't be avoided. In that case, be sure you handle the conversation carefully. Begin the conversation with something such as, "I know you don't usually like to talk about this, but can we calmly discuss your decision to go back to school?" This will allow the other person to be more open to hearing what you have to say.

About the Author

Dr. Carol Morgan holds a PhD in Communication, a Master of Arts in media criticism, and a Bachelor of Science in advertising. Dr. Morgan is a professor at Wright State University and is a regular motivational expert on the TV show, "Living Dayton." She is also the author of the book, "Radical Relationship Resource: A Guide for Repairing, Letting Go, or Moving On," a frequent keynote speaker, and the monthly co-host of "Dick Sutphen’s Metaphysical World" radio show.

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