What is your communication style?
What happens when you try to
communicate your thoughts or needs?
I’m a big fan of speaking plainly and saying what I mean. Like anything else, communicating is a skill and it’s a skill that I’m always working on. How do we say something while being kind? Honesty without cruelty? Expressing our feelings without protecting the other person but not hurting them intentionally either? It can get complicated very quickly.
We focus on a “listen to understand” approach to our conversations, especially ones that are about a conflict or disagreement. As people, we generally listen to respond, to defend ourselves. In order for our relationship to work (and we learned this very, very early on), we must be able to trust that the other person is honestly listening to the words we are using and believes that we are both speaking with good intent.
It sounds very idealistic but it’s work and it’s hard. There are times I do just want to lash out and say ugly things but that’s not who I want to be and that’s not who he wants me to be. Express my feelings, yes, tell him I’m angry or upset or hurt, yes, but being cruel is unnecessary. It can be incredibly difficult for me to sit in my feelings and try to explain them to someone. I’ve had people dismiss my feelings or a situation I found difficult and talk about themselves instead. It is hard work to unlearn those patterns and not go into a conversation defensive or expecting to get talked over. I also struggle with believing that my partner wants to hear these things about me…that he wants to know why I’m upset and wants to understand the depth of my feelings so that we can go forward together.
Therapy helped me immensely in strengthening my communication skills. Spending time discussing what different words and concepts meant to us also helped and was something that became crucial during some very difficult situations. Learning “I” language, learning what an emotion is trying to tell me (Am I angry or actually afraid?), asking for clarification, repeating back to the other person, “You said X and I understand it as Y, is that right?”.
I know some people discuss putting the dynamic aside when having serious conversations and I’m personally not a fan of this. The dynamic is too much of the relationship that, even when we’re discussing the relationship itself, I can’t imagine putting it down. My communication efforts should be respectful and honest and Daddy respects my feelings and doesn’t dismiss them simply because I’m his slave. I do not feel that the dynamic creates a negative balance in this case – if anything, I think the value of the dynamic helps remind me that sharing difficult things is important. If I don’t share, am I honoring our dynamic? Am I valuing myself?
In the end, there is no dynamic without clear, honest communication from both of us.