Relationships 101, Part 8: The What and the How

I’ve been working with couples and families for almost 20 years as therapist. One thing that has become abundantly clear that is that when people are in conflict, what they need the other person to understand is incredibly important. How we communicate that truth can work directly against our goal of being understood. In my previous article, I mentioned the importance of self-regulation and offered 5 techniques to help you get in the right part of your mind in order to have a constructive conflict. Starting from a centered mind is step one to communicating your “what” effectively. In a non-reactive state, you can speak in ways that make room for the other person’s interpretation of events. You will also be able to hear your partner without getting lost in defensiveness. (This is also where last week’s article on separating personhood from behavior comes into play.) Our “How” can become loaded with personal attack. We are hurt and angry that about something the other person has done. It is important to express your anger, but accusatory statements can get in the way of actually being heard. If your partner yells, “You never call!,” your response will most likely be to prove this isn’t true. The other person’ feelings have gotten lost and now you are arguing pointlessly about who is “right.” This completely misses the mark. If instead your partner said, “When you don’t call me it leaves me feeling hurt and angry.” Now you have a chance to meet your partner at the point of their pain. You can humbly apologize and care that the person is feeling this way, and then work together on different ways to do things so that you are both getting your needs met. Now you’re cooking with gas! Stay tuned to this space for more healthy-enough relationship tools! If you are ready to work on a healthier, more vital and fulfilling relationship, fill out the Send a Message form to the right. Let’s talk! ___________ Tiffany Sankofa, MS LCPC is a therapist in practice in Columbia, MD. If you’d like help growing your relationship, go to and contact Tiffany today. It’s time to take your life back!