I don’t like talking to you.

I will never forget the day Harold said those six little words to me. We had been married for 9 years at the time. We were parenting three children, both working full time and had settled into the monotony of life being married with kids.

And as much as it hurt to hear those words at the time, had they never been spoken we may have never addressed the communication problem in our marriage.

Hearing those six words forced me to take a good hard look at me. And I discovered 3 communication tips that will help you make meaningful change in your communication and get what you need and want from your family.

Know Your Triggers

I’m a talker. I always have been. Verbal expression is my preferred method of communication. Harold isn’t much of a talker. When he speaks it’s because whatever he is saying needed to be said.

That difference in our personalities led to one-sided conversations where I felt the burden of keeping things going. It got to a point where I stopped engaging in small talk because it just felt too hard.

What we didn’t know then was that Harold withholding his words was an emotional trigger for me. We later learned that of the 5 Love Languages as defined by Dr. Gary Chapman my primary Love Language is Words of Affirmation with Quality Time as a close second. To make me feel valued and loved I need you to spend time and talk to me. When that didn’t happen, I felt slighted.

Knowing your triggers is the first and most important of these 3 communication tips. Learning your Love Languages and using them to express love and affirm your partner will go a long way in improving your communication. If you haven’t yet, take the Love Languages Assessment at www.5lovelanguages.com.

ALSO RELATED: Effective Communication with Your Entire Family

Get Back To Basics

Because Harold and I had allowed our communication to become transactional our conversations were not fulfilling for me. We’d stopped talking to one another about our hopes and dreams and only spoke about what the kids needed, what we were going to cook for dinner, and the next day’s schedule. We were technically communicating, but the words were not affirming.

A basic communication model consists of six elements: a sender, a message, a channel through which the message is delivered, a receiver, feedback, and a channel through which the feedback is sent. Problems arise and miscommunication occurs when noise is introduced to the model. Noise blurs the message and/or the receiver’s ability to decode it.

3 Communciation Tips - Model

We had gotten to a point where our communication was only about the hard stuff. We only conversed when we “had to talk” about something.

Harold’s lack of interest in conversation made me withdraw all my words unless they were absolutely necessary. Our communication model was broken and blurred by Harold’s perception that any discussion was going to be bad. Or hard. Or something else he had to do.

ALSO RELATED: 3 Words to Keep your Cool In Stressful Situations

Plan to Be Better

The last of these 3 communication tips is to create a plan. As a former project manager, everything in my life has a plan. Winston Churchill is famously quoted as having said, ” He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” That goes for your approach to communication as well.

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Now that you know your triggers you can identify where they impact your basic communication model. Armed with that knowledge you can create a plan to improve your communication using one of the following methods.

Bucket Filling: Take steps to ensure that each one of your interaction fills the other person bucket and doesn’t dip from it. Researcher and author Tom Rath shares the outcomes of his research in an easy to read guide to improving human interaction How Full Is Your Bucket.

THINK: Before you say words that you can never take back, stop and think. Consider whether or not your words will be True, Helpful, Informative, Necessary, and Kind. If they aren’t, don’t say them.

These 3 communication tips have helped us make meaningful change in our marriage and with our children.

What have your communication challenges been? Do you think these tips can help improve them?