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Communication is often touted as the number one most critical skill in a relationship AND there is very little or no training in our education system about how to actually do it effectively!
As a relationship coach I have seen LDS/Mormon mixed faith marriages in crisis due to underdeveloped communication skills.
Here I want to give you what I consider to be essential scaffolding for successful communication. The two skills that can help you work through the inherent messiness of communication.
There are two components to successful communication (1) what is going on inside of you (your thoughts and feelings) and (2) what is going on outside (communication tools, the actual words spoken). Both need to be addressed in order for communication to be at its best.
Here we will talk about both components and how to implement them into your mixed faith marriage.
If you had to prioritize one of the two tools, prioritize this one. This is the work you do before you can implement any sort of communication tools like “I statements,” soft starts, or the difficult conversation tool I teach below.
Before you have any sort of difficult or important conversation take the time to get yourself mentally and emotionally prepared. I teach clients that they need to lay the groundwork for their success by choosing ahead of time what they are going to think and feel during the conversation.
If you are starting a difficult conversation and thinking, “My husband is a jerk and this needs to change,” and feeling frustrated – I guarantee you will get a certain result (probably not a good one) even if you say all the “correct” things. If you decide to genuinely think “Our relationship is so important to me I am going to address this issue” and feel love – you will get a very different result (probably a good one).
The inside work consists of choosing ahead of time what you are going to think and feel during your communication/conversation.
If you want to feel connected you may tell yourself, “This person matters more to me than anyone else.” If you want to feel compassion you may tell yourself, “They are really hurting now and I want to help.”
Many people jump right into communication without looking at what they are thinking and feeling and this can be a form of sabotage. When you jump into communication from frustration or hurt your success rate is going to be diminished.
Before practicing any communication skills first ask yourself:
What do you want to feel as you communicate?:
What do you need to think to feel that way?:
DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE ANSWERING THESE QUESTIONS. Taking two minutes to get clear on your intentions matter.
The external tools are the things you learn in a relationship books, such as what to say and not to say. These tools when combined with the inside work become very effective. Without the internal work they often come across as hollow or fake. External tools will always feel a bit awkward at first. Be patient as you learn and implement them. You can learn any number of excellent tools from experts like John Gottman or Esther Perel. Here I will teach one tool taught by Brooke Castillo. This tool was created to help when having a difficult conversation (such as deciding about a child’s baptism or a resignation letter).
1. Do the inner work.
2. Ask your spouse what they think and feel about the topic and LISTEN. Do not add your own thoughts and feelings. Do not try to convince, defend, or disprove. Just listen.
3. State the facts of the situation. These are the things everyone would agree on. (ie – we have a 7 1/2 year old child, the primary president asked me about his baptism, my parents told me they would like to visit for his baptism).
4. Summarize the two viewpoints:
You make these facts mean_______________________________________________
I make these facts mean_________________________________________________
5. Now talk about a solution (ONLY the solution – you will be tempted to go back and talk about the problem)
NOTE: You did not have an opportunity to share all your thoughts and feelings about the issue. This is not necessary and often leads to defensiveness. That part is left out on purpose. REMEMBER coming to a solution is more important than you being able to share all your thoughts and feelings. If you really want to share your thoughts and feelings pay attention if it is because you are trying to convince your partner.
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If you found this helpful, there is more! I have a ton of resources to help you.
Go to BrookeBoothCoaching.com where I have a podcast all about issues around being a Mormon or post Mormon in a mixed faith marriage caused by a faith transition.
If you are really ready to start working on your mixed faith marriage CLICK HERE to schedule a FREE call with me to talk about how coaching can help your mixed faith marriage. I will give you a full hour and we will really explore the issues you are facing and decide if coaching is a good fit for you. Your marriage is worth it!
Talk to you soon,
Brooke Booth, JD
Certified Life Coach