074 588 3808 rdpearman@gmail.com

Navigating Communication Challenges in Relationships

Chad Prinsloo | Web Designer

Robbie Pearman  |  Counselling Psychologist

March 04 2023

If there is one common thread, the thing that people narrow it all down to when it comes to why they have a relationship that is not as healthy as they would like, it is communication. Sometimes this is rephrased as wanting better conflict resolution, or fewer arguments etc, however we inevitably find ourselves dealing with the same frustration, communication, or lack thereof.

Generally speaking, we as people are not very good at having difficult or uncomfortable conversations. This has a lot to do with the fact that not many of us were taught how to growing up! But it is a learnable, practicable skill. And when we do become effective at having these conversations, relationships of all types can flourish. However, there are some cardinal principles we should adhere to in order to set us up to improve our communication:

1) Start difficult conversations proactively not reactively. This means choosing a time and place when you and the other person are calm and have sufficient privacy to speak (face-to-face, wherever possible). It means letting the other person know you need to talk about something difficult with them, and asking them to sit down with you to start that conversation.

2) Good communication is more about listening, and less about talking. If someone is upset with you, this means resisting the urge to defend yourself on the spot, but rather see it as an information gathering exercise in which, by the end, you feel like you completely understand how and why a person might feel that way and how they arrived at that position (Even if you don’t completely agree with the fact that they feel that way or have that point of view).

3) Resist the need to arrive at a solution. The issues that create some level of unhappiness between us and another person, are often not dealt with because we don’t know how to bring the issue up. It probably became an issue over a period of time, not overnight. So the likelihood is that the solution will also take some time to arrive at. So take the pressure of yourself and recognise that the best start you can make in talking about difficult issues is simply to acknowledge that it is an issue that affects you, that it might be complicated to fix, that you might not know where to start when it comes to addressing it, but that you are committed to working together with your loved one or valued person to figure it, together, however long it might take. That is more than enough!

Here is a link to a video that describes these kinds of conversations. It is worth watching, and rewatching. Getting these kinds of conversations right might be one of the healthiest things we ever do for ourself and our relationships with others.

I’m a Counselling Psychologist situated in Blairgowrie, near the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, such as Rosebank and Sandton.

I work with individuals, couples, families, and small groups to address current challenges with a solution-focused approach. These challenges may include some more common complaints such as depression, and anxiety, or those trying to come to terms with trauma or bereavement.

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