Stop getting in the way of productive conversation — it’s the key to a happy, healthy relationship!
By Mitzi Bockmann
Written on Nov 10, 2023
Photo: Nd3000 | Canva
We all fancy ourselves good communicators and have some communication skills. Yet, we can always brush up on the most productive ways to do so successfully.
Much like going to the gym to keep yourself strong, spending some time working on your communication muscles is not a bad thing.
Here are nine conversational roadblocks any good spouse should avoid.
1. Leaving it unresolved by storming off
In movies and T.V. when lovers are in a fight, one person storms off, their person follows them, and everything is resolved.
This does not happen in real life.
In real life, storming off is one of the top conversation-stoppers. Why? Because it stops the conversation in its tracks, leaving it unresolved and any issues sure to pop up again.
I have a client who storms away. And what happens? Her husband is thrilled he can go back to his garage and not discuss the issue anymore. She is hurt because he doesn’t follow her. The hurt gets added to the issue that is now unresolved.
So, don’t storm away in anger or frustration. Stay in your spot, keep the conversation going, and put the issue to bed.
2. Interrupting so they are never heard
Think about how it feels when you are trying to get something out, trying to be understood, and the person you are talking to keeps interrupting. It’s incredibly frustrating, right?
It can be hard not to interrupt — perhaps you have something you want to add to a conversation or dispute. And that is OK. But, you must wait until your person finishes what they have to say before you start talking. Why? Because your person needs to feel heard by you. Interrupting won’t let them feel that way, and they will likely shut down.
3. Thinking ahead when you should listen instead
I have an ex who would never listen to what I said, whether we were having a simple conversation or a fight. Instead of focusing on what I was saying, he would be figuring out the next thing he would say. The moment I stopped talking, he would start up and say whatever he wanted, which often had nothing to do with what I had said.
This is a difficult skill to master. We all want to be heard in a relationship, and we know we can’t be if we aren’t prepared when it’s our time to talk. Yet, you must listen to what someone is saying before you speak. To understand what they are trying to say and to respond to that. If you barely skip a beat after your spouse starts talking before you talk, they will know that you haven’t been listening, and that will only shut them down.
4. Being condescending to shut them down
When I didn’t have the communication skills I have now, I would be very condescending to my ex-husband when we fought.
Why? Because I always thought I knew better about whatever we were talking about. I knew what the kids needed, how our schedule looked, and what we were planning to do for Christmas. Before we even had the conversation, I was often frustrated with him for not thinking about these things ahead of time, so when he tried to put his two cents in, I would shut him down, ignoring whatever he wanted to say.
No one wants to be condescended to, so my behavior shuts any conversation down immediately to leave it unresolved. Note: He is now my ex-husband.
5. Mocking that ends the conversation
I have a client who fights with her boyfriend all the time. We have been talking for years, trying to get her out of this relationship, but she stays and hopes it will work out.
Their fights are horrible and unproductive. Why? Because she mocks him.
Her boyfriend is very volatile and says things he hasn’t thought through before he says them. She doesn’t like what he says, so she repeats what he says mockingly. She does it so he can hear the ridiculousness of what he is saying. For whatever reason, she says it, it only enrages him and makes the fight worse.
If you find yourself mocking your person, shut it down. That way, the conversation won’t stop, and the issue can be settled.
6. Bad timing that creates the wrong atmosphere
Think of the last time you wanted to have a conversation with your spouse. Did you pick a good time?
Did you perhaps initiate it at dinnertime? Or when your spouse wanted to watch T.V.? Or when they had had a bad day at work? Or when you were already fighting?
Choosing the right time to talk is the key to making the talk productive. I always suggest that spouses go for a walk to have a difficult conversation. Talking is much easier if you aren’t face to face but side by side because this gives each person time to think before speaking.
Other options are planning and agreeing to talk at a scheduled time. You can commit to not starting a difficult conversation when things are already tense. Do whatever you can to make the atmosphere conducive for a healthy conversation.
7. Name-calling/swearing to derail the discussion
This is one thing I have never done in any fight with a partner, but I have learned through my work it is common.
Do you and your partner name-call or swear? When things get heated, do harsh words come out, words you might never be able to take back? Words that shut down the conversation?
It takes hard work to stay calm in a conversation. If you can’t stay calm, you still can’t resort to words that might hurt, and you can’t take them back.
8. Lecturing that blocks understanding
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where a co-worker lectures you? When they insist they know everything and must enlighten you because you are the ignorant one. How frustrating is this, and how much do you take in of what your co-worker has said? Probably not very much, correct?
If one person knows more than the other person knows and tries to enlighten them in a lecturing way, the person on the receiving end of the lecture will only shut down.
Both partners in the relationship are grown-ups who don’t want to be lectured to and probably have some knowledge or some acceptance they have none. Allowing them to speak will help them feel heard and will keep the conversation going, hopefully to be resolved.
9. Shutting down
One partner might process things 24/7, enjoy it, and be good at it. For the other partner, not so much. As much as they might want to talk, they can be rusty at it and, as a result, make mistakes. Or, even worse, shut down.
I have learned one of the primary reasons people stop going to couples counseling is because one spouse feels like they are being blamed for everything wrong in the relationship. Instead of being interested in being part of the change, they shut down. They don’t have the conversation skill set their partners and counselors have, so they get frustrated and stop participating.
Both partners in a relationship must work hard to not shut down. Of course, shutting down might happen, but keeping yourself open to conversation will help bring change.
Good for you for trying to define conversational roadblocks that could sabotage your happy marriage.
Communication is the key to a relationship’s success. Having a clear understanding of what to do and not do will help you keep the lines of communication open, and have the kind of conversations that will give you the happy ever after you so desire.
You can do it!
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Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate who works exclusively with women to help them be all they want to be. Mitzi’s bylines have appeared in The Good Men Project, MSN, PopSugar, Prevention, Huffington Post, and Psych Central, among many others.