How to Overcome Communication Barriers

Healthy communication is one of the most important foundations to a healthy marriage. The problem is that each partner often brings his own share of barriers to the conversation, and we need to be quick to identify them.
Once you’ve identified the most common barriers to your communication with your spouse, you can take steps to overcome them.
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For example, on a recent trip to McDonald’s with our three younger kids, we had just finished our meal and I was picking up our tray to put it away, when Joy asked me if I’d cleaned Caddy’s hands. I gave her a look, which to me meant, “Why are you expecting me to clean her hands?”

I felt like I had missed doing something expected of me, and felt annoyed because I believed it wasn’t my responsibility to clean our daughter’s hands when Caddy was perfectly capable of doing it herself. That sparked a whole “intense discussion!”

I told Joy that if she just asked me to do it (e.g. “Can you clean…?” instead of “Did you clean…?”) I would be happy to do it. But you know what? All that Joy meant with her question was to check if the task was done, without any intention to ask me to do it!

The good news is that once you’ve identified the most common barriers to your communication with your spouse, you can take steps to overcome them. Here are some tips you can practice right away to improve your communication:

1. Set aside time for heart-to-heart communication.

In order to get rid of the first barrier, distractions, we encourage you to set aside time where you can have an uninterrupted conversation. This may mean getting out of the house, or turning off your phones for an hour.

For example, for me and Joy, our 10-person household is always a cacophony of voices clamoring for attention. When we have something important to talk about, we usually go out for a long walk, have some tea together, and then walk back.

2. Take time to listen.

Listening is a skill that takes time to improve. Often times, we are too much in a hurry to say our piece that while our partner is talking, we are already planning our comeback.

One way you can improve your listening skills is to decide not to focus on your side of the conversation. Then, practice mirroring back what your partner is saying.

3. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt.

If there’s anyone we need to give the benefit of the doubt to, it’s our spouse. Sadly, they are the ones who get the brunt of our suspicions!

When we question a person’s intentions, it can cause a lot of negative feelings to rise up in us, such as defensiveness, that breaks down communication. One way to overcome this is to ask clarifying questions. “When you say this, what do you mean?

Then, we can express how we understand something. “When I hear this, I think this is what it means.”

Lastly, we can discuss how best to communicate with each other, using “I” statements. For example, we can say, “When I hear this particular word, I feel dismissed or disrespected.” “Can you phrase it differently so that I could receive the message?

If there’s anyone we need to give the benefit of the doubt to, it’s our spouse. Sadly, they are the ones who get the brunt of our suspicions!
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4. Use “I feel” and “I need” statements.

Starting your sentences with “I feel” instead of “You did this” lets us practice expressing our feelings, and also removes accusation. This helps both partners put their guards down and not feel attacked.

Expressing “I need…” helps your partner understand your needs and decide to give it out of his or her love for you.

Overcoming Barriers to Communication

It’s essential that you learn how to overcome the most common barriers to communication. Then, you can learn crucial skills on how to communicate in a way that builds connection and trust, helping you build up your marriage for the long haul!

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