Do you ever feel uneasy at the prospect of sitting down with someone you don’t get along with? Perhaps anxiety creeps up on you or you feel sad or depressed. These emotions are often a sign of certain behaviors that can indicate a mismatch in your interactions with others. For instance, you might feel frustrated and fearful of being disappointed, rejected, or even bullied or assaulted. These are all behaviors that can lead to uncomfortable situations, leaving us feeling unheard, unsupported, or unappreciated.
If we delve deeper, we’ll find that these emotions stem from the anticipation of negative behavior from others. The behaviors we hope to avoid are often related to feelings of being dismissed, misunderstood, or undervalued. The key is to pay attention to the evidence that indicates when we feel this way. Observing the other person’s behavior, whether verbal or nonverbal, can give us important clues about how to communicate more effectively and build more intimate relationships.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the intricacies of intimate communication and the effective dialogue of intimacy. We’ll learn how to recognize and respond to our own feelings and those of others in order to build stronger, more meaningful relationships. So let’s dive in and discover the power of intimate communication.
Communication is often thought of as primarily verbal, but did you know that up to 70% of it is actually nonverbal? This includes things like body language, facial expressions, and physical proximity. These cues can speak volumes about a person’s thoughts and feelings, often revealing more than their words ever could. In fact, when conflicts arise in relationships, people tend to focus on their pain and complain about their experiences. This is a natural response to the need for validation and containment. However, it’s important to remember that there’s more to effective communication than just venting about our struggles.
Overcoming the urge to seek agreement and embrace understanding is no easy feat. Our brains are wired to latch onto all-or-none thinking, which can quickly lead to arguments and debates. When we come into conflict situations, we’re often filled with anxiety, disappointment, and anticipation of escalation. It’s no wonder we become guarded and tense up. But what if we could change the entire scenery, the entire atmosphere? What if we could get on the right track, and instead of seeking agreement, focus on understanding? Understanding is the key to collaborating and coexisting, but it doesn’t require being on the same page all the time. Seeking agreement can set us up for failure, forcing us to either coerce or capitulate, ultimately leading to resentment or reasoning. When we let go of the need for agreement and embrace understanding, we can transform the entire interaction. It takes time and training, but it’s worth it. Let’s change our mindset and get on the road to productive dialogue.
What I do is create a safe space where we can explore and pursue understanding without feeling the pressure to agree on everything. It’s truly amazing when two people can understand each other and feel fully supported without any coercion or capitulation. This allows for a natural and voluntary agreement to follow, rather than a forced one. But here’s the catch – I’ve learned that we only reach this level of understanding and agreement when we let go of the need for it. Instead, I remain vulnerable, open-minded, and curious on this journey of discovering the other person.
Something fascinating happens during this process – our neurobiological processes shift from a dysfunctional state to a functional state. I’ve witnessed the transformation that occurs when we engage with each other in a certain way. That’s why my method of engagement is so crucial. Rather than focusing on the content of our communication, I prioritize the process of communication. I engage in debate and dialogue but with a twist. I use the technique of “telling what I know” to facilitate a deeper level of understanding and connection.
I’ve noticed that in many conversations, people tend to tell each other what’s right and wrong, what they should be doing, and what their opinions are. This might work well in political debates and public displays, but it can be detrimental in close, intimate relationships. When two people engage in a telling method of communication, it can lead to hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and even trauma, especially for children who might witness these arguments. Instead of imposing our own thoughts, feelings, and values on others, we should focus on empathetically discovering their reasoning and depth of understanding. And one powerful way to do that is through Socratic questioning – a method that’s been around for thousands of years.
The listener engages in curiosity and asks questions of the speaker, without worrying about whether they agree or disagree. This builds layers and layers of curiosity, empathy, and understanding. As the speaker shares their reasoning and emotions, the listener summarizes and validates their perspective. When I’m trying to communicate with someone, I’ve noticed that we often just tell each other what we think is right or wrong, what should or shouldn’t be done. It’s like we’re mimicking each other without really listening or understanding. I’ve seen this happen a lot in political debates and public displays, but it’s also a problem in romantic relationships and family dynamics.
In these types of relationships, telling someone what to do or how to think can create a lot of conflict and trauma for everyone involved. That’s why it’s important to shift from this telling method to a more functional method of dialogue. Instead of imposing our own morals and values onto others, we should be asking questions to discover each other’s perspectives and reasoning. One effective way to do this is through Socratic questioning, a method that’s been used for thousands of years. Socratic questioning is all about building curiosity and empathy by asking questions and seeking to understand the depth of someone’s reasoning. As a listener, it’s important to engage in this process of curiosity even if we don’t necessarily agree with the speaker. We’re trying to understand their perspective, their emotional processes, and their pain.
One thing I’ve noticed is that there are multiple subconscious processes going on when we’re engaging in this type of dialogue. We need to approach the other person with respect and empathy, and also actively listen to what they’re saying. Sometimes, even when we think we’re listening, we’re really just hearing the words without understanding the deeper meaning. For example, if someone is telling me about their anxiety and how I make them feel dismissed, I need to actively listen to the inner processes that are happening in response to their words. I might be hearing their words, but I’m also hearing my own inner voice saying things like “I’m no good” or “I made a mistake.” These subconscious processes can create a lot of conflict and misunderstanding.
Sometimes it can feel like we’re communicating but not really getting anywhere. That’s because deep-rooted emotions can be triggered during conversations, and once that happens, effective communication goes out the window. When I feel like I’m being criticized or attacked, whether it’s intentional or not, my automatic response is to become defensive. This is a guaranteed response for every human being. It doesn’t matter if it’s coming from the person I’m talking to or if it’s just a nonverbal message like a sigh or a frown. Once the defense mechanism kicks in, it can feel like we’re sinking deeper into our pain and becoming even more attacked and criticized.
In relationships, this chaotic nature can escalate quickly. It’s like we start off with anxiety and anticipation, but once those deep-rooted emotions come to the surface, it can feel like we’re just spiraling out of control. It’s like we’re both talkers, but not really good listeners. We’re just blurting out our emotions, expecting to be understood and heard, but instead feeling criticized and attacked. This process can ultimately lead to three options: complete disengagement, violence, or one person staying in the relationship for various reasons like shared resources, emotional connections, or love. It’s important to recognize this process and actively work on improving communication to avoid these negative outcomes.
Sometimes it feels like there’s just no way to solve a problem without one person giving in or crumbling. It’s like one person becomes subservient and the other becomes overpowering, and they both end up unhappy. And if neither person is willing to give in, things can escalate into violence. We need to approach communication with a different mindset, one that involves taking on the roles of both listener and talker. And when we engage in discussion, we need to focus on asking questions and refraining from criticism, so we can really understand each other. When we approach communication in this way, something amazing happens. We begin to create a healthy, secure bond between two people. We feel understood and safe, and we can disagree with each other without it causing tension. We understand each other’s experiences and perspectives, and we can appreciate how each person organizes their world.
For example, one person might be very organized and structured, following strict protocols and routines to create a sense of security and certainty. And that’s okay because it works for them. But it might not work for someone else, and that’s okay too.
Have you ever found yourself struggling to communicate effectively with someone who seems to have a different way of functioning than you do? Maybe it’s a spouse, a child, or a parent. For example, one person might rely heavily on structure, rules, and principles to cope with stress, while the other person prefers spontaneity and creativity. The good news is that it is possible to create sensible communication and interaction between these two people with some effort and understanding. One important thing to keep in mind is that our subconscious needs and desires often come into play during communication. One of the biggest subconscious needs is our attachment style.
Research shows that people with an anxious attachment style may heavily rely on their partner to regulate their emotions. In a conflict, they may struggle to calm themselves down and instead seek immediate agreement from their partner. On the other hand, someone with an avoidant attachment style may tend to withdraw and become introspective when stressed. When these two styles come together in a relationship, it can lead to a cat-and-mouse game of pursuing and withdrawing, which can quickly escalate into a messy argument. However, with awareness and understanding of each other’s coping styles, it is possible to create a more effective dialogue and prevent these conflicts from happening.
How certain things your partner does or says can trigger your anxiety or stress management style? It’s something that most of us aren’t even aware of, but it can have a big impact on our relationships. That’s where effective dialogue and intimacy come in. By engaging in a dialogue that helps us become more aware of our own attachment styles and how they affect us in moments of stress, we can become less codependent on our partners and more self-reliant. This means we can handle difficult situations without feeling like we need our partner to constantly regulate our emotions.
Instead of rushing through conversations to quickly solve a problem, effective dialogue allows us to be fully present in the moment, honing our senses and emotional faculties to handle the situation at hand. This kind of communication may not always result in an agreement, but it leads to a deeper understanding and connection with our partner. Over time, engaging in effective dialogue and intimacy can lead to happier, more meaningful relationships with less anxiety and stress. It’s a process that takes time and effort, but the rewards are well worth it.
When the darkness of anxiety and stress subsides, we can see the light of hope, energy, and capability. Our self-esteem and confidence are boosted, and we become more tolerant of ourselves and others. We start to normalize our daily struggles and know that it’s going to be okay. Love takes center stage, along with confidence, hopefulness, appreciation, and gratification. We feel connected to those who love us, and we know that we can handle anything together. It’s not about freestyle dancing in our relationships, hoping for the best. It’s about learning the 21 rules of engagement and creating a much calmer and more peaceful level of interaction with our partner. It’s like formal dancing, where we learn the steps and work together to create a beautiful dance.
I’ve only mentioned four of the 21 rules, but they are all important components that help us establish a stronger connection with our partner. When we engage in effective dialogue of intimacy, we can handle any situation and create a happier, more meaningful relationship. It’s not just about randomly saying whatever is on our minds and hoping for the best. It’s about being intentional with our words and actions, and working together to create a stronger bond.
Some people have successful relationships while others struggle. I used to think that it was just luck or something out of my control, but I’ve come to realize that there’s actually a protocol to follow, just like with ballroom dancing. If you want to become a great dancer, you shouldn’t just wing it and hope for the best. You would hire an instructor, listen to their specific instructions, practice the different steps, and master the different levels of instruction. Relationships are the same way – there are specific components that make up a successful dialogue of intimacy. Through learning and practicing these components, such as effective communication, appreciation, and connection, relationships become easier and more enjoyable. It’s not about blindly following what others are doing or relying on traditional thoughts that may not work for you. It’s about taking control of your own happiness and learning how to build strong, healthy relationships.
Intimate communication is a vital aspect of any healthy relationship. It’s not something we’re born with, but rather a skill that can be learned and developed over time. By implementing the 21 rules of effective dialogue of intimacy, you can improve the quality of your communication with your partner and ultimately build a stronger, more fulfilling relationship. Remember, it’s never too late to start. Whether you’re struggling in your current relationship or simply looking to improve your communication skills, you can make a change. Be mindful and intentional about your communication, and watch how it can transform your relationships.
If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to watch Part 1 and 2 of the Intimate Communication Series on my YouTube channel. The prelude video provides a great introduction, and Parts 1 and 2 delve deeper into the 21 rules of effective dialogue of intimacy. So, take the next step and start improving your communication today.
This is Dr. G, a clinical psychologist, wishing you all the best on your journey towards more intimate and fulfilling relationships.