Would you like to be able to address anything and everything, which you believe is important to discuss for the betterment of your relationship? Would you want to do so free of worry that your spouse may espouse you are wrong for doing so? I help couples sort out a muddled mess of principles, values, and interpretations along with notions of fairness and justice. People are suffering from a lack of ability to effectively dialogue about a wide array of issues and topics, which are relevant to the well being of their relationship. In general, people lack a useful and impartial platform and format for productive discussion in equal relationships.
Effective communication is difficult! Couples benefit from having a structure for communication! The majority of discussion and relating funnels into two different categories. You are either one in the role of conveying something or two by default, if not by active choice, you have the opportunity to receive what is being expressed by your teammate. One of the three pieces of advice I mentioned in the interview with Marteen is to know your roles. Roles are part and parcel of creating a useful platform and format for the discussion of anything.
Let’s name these two roles Speaker and Supporter for our purposes. A few characteristics of the Speaker role include a focus on one thing at a time, no blaming, and using future positive language to describe what you would like to occur. A few characteristics of the Supporter role include don’t try to fix or solve the Speaker’s problem, remind yourself not to take things personally, and only ask questions you think your Speaker wants you to ask.
A well performing egalitarian relationship takes turns with both people being in each role half of the time. Sound fair? People like fairness in their relationships. When your partner thinks you are unfair, they think less of you and vice versa. You can get out of a messy dynamic by committing to your individual development of both roles. You do not need your partner to engage for you to participate. You can be the leader on your team. But apparently, you would be in a way better situation if your partner were on board.
Dialogue is a team sport. If you have ever played sports, you know you and your teammates are regularly conceptualized to be in positions. You are where you are on the field for well thought out reasons. Teammates have different positions with different roles, but all are supporting the same larger mission. Skillful teammates now that it is more than just their performance on the field, but also how they communicate with their team that makes them a valuable asset. Assess the role you need to be in, and when to be in it, to best support your team.
It doesn’t work out well on the field, the court, or in dialogue when one person hinders or outright prevents their teammate from accomplishing their specific function. Commit to not co-opting your partner’s roles even when you don’t like what they have to say. It is necessary to develop a no excuse mentality for your self around not co-opting roles. There will always be a never-ending and extremely convenient (though detrimental to your development) list of excuses available.
Once you understand and thus participate in dialogue as a team, you will continue to encounter many impasses to you being a good teammate. The trick here is to conceptualize the deadlock you encounter as an impasse with your development of one of the two roles. When you do, ask yourself is this impasse I’m facing best addressed by developing as a Speaker or Supporter. Focus your improvements at developing in one of those two roles. The best way you have to improve your team is by improving you.
Written By Morgan Barber LCSW