Arguably, the most crucial aspect you can bring to your relationship is being conscious of your own emotions. Equally important is understanding your partner’s feelings. To say that these skills are essential for a couple’s well-being and happiness would be a massive understatement.
Even with awareness of your relationship’s emotions, what should you do with this knowledge? This is where communication skills come into play. How do you express to your partner that they’ve angered or hurt you? How can you convey your needs to them? As most couples therapists know, “The way you communicate a difficult message is even more important than the message itself.”
Let’s examine examples of unsuccessful communication.
Ineffective Communication Examples
Mark is upset and angry because Beth didn’t pay attention to him at a party, even after he asked her to stay by his side since he didn’t know anyone.
- Passive-aggressive: Mark decides, “I’ll show her how it feels. I’ll ignore her at my work party next week.”
- Aggressive: Mark approaches Beth during the party and quietly, but furiously, says, “You are so self-centered! I’m never going to another party with you again.”
- Sarcastic: As soon as they get in the car to drive home, Mark angrily says, “Well, I hope you had fun at that party because I sure didn’t.”
Passive-aggressive actions are more about retaliation than communication. Mark believes his tit-for-tat approach will teach Beth a lesson, but it won’t. When Mark ignores Beth at his work party, it’s likely that she’ll never link his behavior to her own. Even if she does, resentment will follow. This method only burdens the relationship with negativity over time.
In this example, Mark uses an accusatory and confrontational approach, with poor timing. His words, tone, and decision to confront her during the party guarantee that Beth won’t want to fix the issue. Instead, she’ll feel attacked, hurt, and potentially humiliated. Sadly, Mark’s needs will remain unaddressed.
Here, Mark waits until it’s too late for Beth to correct her behavior in the moment. He doesn’t communicate his feelings directly or considerately. Sarcasm is like “a jab that comes at you from the side.” Beth will feel accused and attacked, raising her defenses. Consequently, Mark’s message will be lost.