I have received many letters asking about how to talk to a date, or how to have better communication in relationships. There are some basic techniques to being a better communicator. First, be sure to listen fully to your partner and then give validation – that means repeating back what you understand he or she has said first, before you formulate your response. It’s best to say, “I understand what you are saying,” or “I hear you.” Then, be clear in your response. Stick to the subject at hand and don’t bring up past incidents. Also, formulate your sentences with “I” statements, meaning say “I felt hurt” rather than “you hurt me.” It’s likely your partner will respond more to understanding your feelings than with being accused. It also helps to ask questions rather than give accusations. For example, “did you realize that would hurt me?” versus “How could you hurt me that way!”
However, more important than listening and reflecting techniques is the ability to first be authentic with yourself . Are you able to communicate vulnerable feelings, such as being hurt or lonely, or are you communicating anger that might cover up other feelings that you are not comfortable sharing. Anger normally has another more difficult feeling underneath it. If so, you can look at why you are not comfortable sharing underlying feelings – do you feel safe in the relationship? Do you trust that your partner will hear your concerns and respond with compassion? Or, are you uncomfortable extending trust? All of these elements are very personal, making real communication between partners more than technique or skill-building. Of course, you have to gauge the stage of the relationship in terms of being able to handle vulnerability – we’re not talking about the first few dates.
In the end, extending compassion and kindness will likely improve any communication. Realizing that we are each hand made by God, but fallen and imperfect helps us to accept the imperfections in others. Be gentle with yourself – communication takes practice – and be gentle with your dates.