There’s a lot of information on how to do relationships out there. I know, I’ve read a ton of it. In fact, I really hate it when someone over promises in a title and then under delivers. I find myself going, “Well, that’s wasn’t helpful at all. They just used a catchy title to lead me to a lame article.”
So when I wrote this post on receiving feedback and how it will help your relationship, I made sure not to do that. I wanted to give you valuable and useable information when handling a certain part of your relationship. Because let’s be honest, for those of us who are in one, it’s a huge part of our lives and we need all the help we can get.
So when you read through this, know that each step is important and corresponds with each other. And when you read it thoroughly, I hope this information will help you and your loved one grow closer through receiving and giving feedback.
Putting Down Barriers
When I was first dating my spouse, I started to notice a trend every time they would bring something up that hurt or bothered them. My defenses would go up. I would start to feel hurt myself and then I wasn’t taking in anything they were telling me. Which of course led to a longer more drawn out argument.
This is how many of us are; we put up our defenses when we know criticism of any kind is coming. And it’s understandable, a lot of us don’t know how to process, retain, or deal with it. So this is an important step in the process of opening up communication.
Allow yourself to put down your barriers. Look past the “Well this is just how I am.” Because let’s be honest, if your partner said that when you confronted them on something that hurt you, they’d just hurt you all the more. Know that it’s healthy to change, especially when you want to keep a healthy and open dialogue between the two of you. You want your partner to be able to be vulnerable when discussing an issue, so opening or starting to open up the dialogue will grow your intimacy with each other when you know that you can confront or speak with each other about anything and everything.
And even if your partner isn’t being tactful about how they’re bringing up the issue (perhaps they’re mad or angry), know that by listening and responding calmly will calm them down and will also start the process of opening a more safe and healthy communicating pattern. So even if you don’t see it right now, just know that you’re starting it and it will come.
Now this one sounds obvious, but like I said in the beginning, it’s valuable information that is all a part of the process of taking these steps as a whole to help your relationship.
When you lower your defenses, your next step is to listen. And when I say listen, I mean I want you to hear them out fully. Making assumptions as to what they’re going to say or where it’s leading is a great way to raise your barriers again and not hear a word they’re saying.
In the past, I used to assume that I knew exactly what they was going to say or do. I thought they were just trying to cut me down or they had an issue with me that wasn’t really prevalent or there. And when I did this, I made it impossible for them and their heart to be heard. They’d express something that hurt or annoyed them, and then I wouldn’t process it fully and what was just a confrontation turned into a fight (which as we all know are really stressful).
So when you put your barriers down, listen and actually hear what they’re saying, you can now take it in a different light. So instead of feeling hurt, you can see it as an opportunity for self-improvement. We all need to grow, so why not see it as a time to find your blind spots. We all have them, and it’s great when someone is able to point them out for us. Then we don’t continue on the same path and get in a collision in the future, or in this case a horrible fight, a breakup, or even something that happens outside of the relationship.
The person that you’re in a relationship with is probably the person you’re closest to and who loves you the most. And unless they’re a manipulative person, then you should see it as good feedback from a loved one.
There’s a great book by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen called “Thanks for the Feedback.” I recently went to the Summit Leadership Conference where Sheila was speaking about the book and she gave some great advice from it. She said that even if someone is ranting at you or angry and giving you criticism, eighty percent of it may be wrong, but twenty percent of it may be spot on. Ignore the other eighty percent and focus on the twenty percent and how you can improve. So if you have a partner or spouse that isn’t great with communicating their frustrations, you can still find something to take note on that you can change.
This is a great argument diffuser. Once you’ve heard them completely out and you’ve processed what they’re saying, let them know that you understand what they’re saying. Usually people continue letting out their frustration and repeat why they’re frustrated with you because you’re not letting them know that you understand. And once you let them know, then they’ll know that you’ve heard them out and there’s no need for repeat.
Now you can acknowledge change and let them know how you’ll change your habit or how you can do things differently. Don’t just say, “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.” Device a plan as to how you can stop the action that hurts your partner. It makes them feel secure that things are taken care of. And make sure to follow through with it, otherwise trust will be hurt when the subject is brought up again.
What to Look Out For
One of the biggest do not’s when giving feedback with your partner or spouse is saying the words “always” and “never.” I was taught a couple years ago that you should never use these words when telling someone how you feel. Because when you say, “You never listen to me,” or, “You always forget to help me,” you’re doing two things. One, you’re lying. Your partner doesn’t always or never do something. And two, you’re raising the blood pressure in the room. Not only is your temper raising when phrasing your communication like that (because let’s be honest, when we say things like that, it makes us even more angry), but you’re making them angry as well. They know they don’t always or never do something and then they forget what you’re initially upset about and start defending themselves.
So avoiding these words can mean avoiding a heated fight between the two of you.
Plan It Out
Plan out beforehand what it is that upsets you most, the root cause. They may do something that day that irritates you one day, but before going after that, think of the past. Why does this irritate you so much? If there’s a past history of doing something repeatedly, then make sure to bring it up. I’m not saying count their sins and always remember them, but you do need to find the root cause of their action and your frustration so you can both work it out.
And once you figure this out, then you can plan out how you want to approach them about it. Don’t walk into the room and demand to speak with them. Ask them calmly if you can communicate with them about something. Usually they’re going to be pretty relaxed, although a bit nervous because they’re not sure what you’re going to say.
Make Your Intent and Needs Known
Make sure that you let them know that you’re not here to attack them, you just want to communicate something that upset you. You obviously don’t want to start a fight, but you do want to address what’s frustrated you.
Then let them know it’s important that you feel heard (so they listen and don’t interrupt assuming that they know what you’re going to say) and you’re not trying to attack them. It helps put their barriers down when they know they’re not going to be hurt themselves.
Once you’ve laid out what they’re doing that’s hurt you or has been bothering you and how it makes you feel, let them know that you want to work it out and ask them what they think about it. Then they can feel safe and let you know why or what was going through their head when they did something. Also if there was a miscommunication or misunderstanding, then they can let you know and hopefully things will work themselves out.
Lastly, be open to hearing what they have to say after you give them feedback. It sounds obvious, but sometimes we forget this and just assume that they’ll say they’re sorry right away without letting you know how they feel on the subject. And when they don’t have the response we want, we end up getting frustrated.
Now remember that the first time or the first few times you do this, it may not work out exactly how you planned it to. But with enough time, a better system for communicating and receiving feedback will be put into place.
If this post was helpful for you, let me know! But if there was something that wasn’t addressed and you need help with, tell me in the comments. I’ll be glad to hear you out and see about making a response post.
Lastly, write in the comments and tell me if there’s any subject on relationships that you need help with. I’ll also be more than willing to listen to your need and create a response post based on what you and others say.