Let me give you the best and most informed advice I can on how to maintain a strong interpersonal communication with one another, even in times of conflict.
A strong communication is the vital foundation that is needed to maintain a lasting, profound union and to better understand one another. Without the elements needed to interpersonally connect with one another on all levels, your relationship will not thrive as a healthy union should. Interpersonal communication is at the core of our personal and professional successes, as well as our own self-concept, emotional intelligence, and our ability to overcome barriers and conflicts that we may encounter as individuals.
I will start with the meaning of an interpersonal communication which is any type of communication that occurs between two individuals. It can be personal, profession, a chance meeting, a planned conversation, or everyday communication that happens in a relationship, as is the case with you two. There are three components that comprise the reasons we communicate which are to meet our personal needs, to learn about ourselves, others, the world we live in, and to create and maintain relationships with others. Shared meaning is the number one goal of all communications; the hope that what you are saying can be understood and the meaning of the message can be shared effectively with them.
Many studies have been done on interpersonal communication barriers. One early study performed by Maslow states that learning effective methods to overcome the obstacles of communication will fulfill our need to belong and be recognized by others. Though the barriers can be difficult to overcome, one must put forth the effort necessary in order to be successful in the world we live in. In a close personal relationship, such as yours, communication is a key factor in its success or failure.
One common barrier many people struggle with is something called emotional flooding. Simply put, emotional flooding is allowing your emotions to dictate your actions and behaviors rather than using rational thinking and effective communication skills. Emotional flooding creates impulsive words and actions to occur, especially when passion and anger is involved in the exchange. I know within my own experience I have allowed emotions to enable me to say or do some very hurtful things which I later regretted. It is difficult at best to take back words or actions you did not mean as your partner still feels the hurt long after you apologize. Uplift one another, never say mean or hurtful things when you are angry or arguing. It will only create a divide between you guys and lessen the sense of security one needs in order to be completely open with one another.
Another vital element of maintaining a successful relationship is being in sync with one’s self-concept—a person’s sense of identity that can be comprised of many different factors. In a close, romantic relationship aspects of your self-concept are often interwoven with your partner’s self-concept which will attribute to how you view yourself.
Current research supports that self-concept is often altered when in a romantic relationship as the person tends to pick up the attributes from their partner they did not possess before the union. This evidence supports the claim that romantic relationships will have an impact on one’s self-concept. Though there are other contributing factors, a person’s partner is a very intrinsic part of your self-concept.
Emotional intelligence is a very important part of who we are as human-beings, but it also plays a vital role in the success of your relationships. Emotional intelligence (EI) involves evaluating not only your own feelings, but the feelings of others, in order to guide your thoughts and actions. The emotional intelligence you possess will dictate the success you have in both your personal and professional relationships, even more so than your IQ. These claims are based on findings that intelligence quotient (IQ) accounts for only 20-25% of success outcomes for work, school, and personal lives. Though there are other contributing factors, emotional intelligence is said to be a very critical attribute in life outcomes.
When it comes to matters of the heart, your brain is not always in control. Your emotional intelligence must be present in order to empathize with your partner as the “reasonable” solution is not always what is right for your situation. Emotional intelligence is a contributor to how well we assess our own and others feelings in order to best choose how to behave or react to a given situation. This is a major part of maintaining a successful relationship as how each person feels, and tending to those feelings, is a very important part of a successful romantic partnership.
If your partner is using their emotional intelligence, you will feel trust for them which will allow you to feel comfortable in opening up and sharing your thoughts and feelings with them. It is called self-disclosure and it is a vital component that every romantic relationship must have in order to flourish and thrive. Self-disclosure is recommended daily between two romantic partners and can be as simple as asking your partner what their dream job is or as deep as asking your partner how they feel about a certain issue or situation. It is taking the time to get to know one another instead of the generic “How was your day?” followed by the generic response of “Good”. It is also taking the time to shower your partner with kind words, compliments, and reinforce how much you love them. I love to hear how much my husband loves me, how beautiful I am, how proud he is of me, and it is a wonderful way to boost your partner’s self-esteem and security within the relationship.
Frequent self-disclosure between couples not only strengthens bonding, trust and communication between the two parties, it can also improve certain health aspects such as mood, stress, and sleep quality. A study performed at the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index reported that the feeling of safety and security spouses feel when they practice frequent, even daily, self-disclosure rose considerably which allowed for less anxiety and better sleep occurring in both partners. A person’s overall well-being can be greatly increased by daily self-disclosure with your romantic partner. So you are not just strengthening your relationship, you are helping your partner to be a healthier, happier individual.
Anyone that has ever been in any type of relationship has endured some type of conflict at some point. Managing the conflicts that arise within your relationship is an absolute essential aspect to a successful relationship built to last. Interpersonal conflicts, or effective conflicts, can occur due to a difference in opinion, strong emotions, a lack of communication, or other contributing factors. Self-disclosure, communication exercise, and “sense making”, are three highly effective strategies to resolve conflict, sometimes including therapy. Strategies to effectively resolve these conflicts ideally utilize integrative strategies such as cooperation, mutual concern and the like-goal of resolving the issue at hand.
A sample study performed with 115 individuals at a Northeastern college showed that conflict could be resolved most quickly if each partner was willing to let go of their anger and other negative feelings in order to work towards a resolution using many communication based exercises, such as self-disclosure. In addition, individuals who were less emotionally expressive were more likely to experience health issues such as headaches, asthma, heart disease complications, and even early cancer death. The most likely chance that a couple can work through any conflict that may arise is by communicating effectively using integrative strategies. The relationships success depends on the ability to put aside any anger or resentments and work together towards a successful resolution using communication exercises, such as self-disclosure.
If you need a push start to mastering self-disclosure, here are some questions you could ask one another to open up the lines of communication. Of course these are vague examples that can be altered to fit the situations in your personal lives but it is an idea of where to start. There are deep questions where true feelings and passion can be revealed and there are also fun questions that will help you get to know one another better.
*Do you truly enjoy your job? Are you treated well and recognized for your hard work?
*Do you feel like I show you enough affection? Give you enough praise? Love?
*What is the hardest part about being my spouse? What can I do to help dispel that?
*If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?
*What would be your “dream life”?
*What is your favorite movie? Why? What character would you be if you could choose?
The questions can be light or deep but the ultimate goal is to bond and become closer to one another through shared meaning. It is important to stress that during self-disclosure you should never ask questions to prove a point or pick a fight, this should be an open sharing time that neither of you takes offensively. Remember, if the question is going to cause tension or pick a fight than avoid it or the whole purpose of self-disclosure is defeated.
It is important that you take care of your relationship, yourself, and your partner like you would with anything you wish to live and maintain for a long time. Your relationship can be compared to a plant or a child. Nourish it with the tools I have given you above, and your bond will inevitably strengthen and grow. You must be diligent and never stop feeding your relationship as it needs to be maintained for a lifetime. A strong sense of self and communication with one another will allow you to carry on this relationship for a lifetime. If you stop nourishing it, it will die, like any living thing.
Interpersonal communication is a required entity in any successful relationship, whether it is professional or personal. It is especially important in our romantic relationships as overcoming barriers and conflicts, our emotional intelligence and self-concept, and using tools such as self-disclosure, are all interwoven into a recipe for longevity and happiness. Without these components the bond, trust, and security needed for a successful union cannot flourish properly.