Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone - only to discover a)he/she isn't listening at all 2) he/she is distracted by technology or c) he/she is already getting defensive even before you start to speak?
If so, you're certainly not alone (and, let's face it, you've probably been a less-than-attentive listener, too!). In fact, lots of folks who come through my office complain about not feeling "heard," and the lack of communication is creating pretty intense conflict in the relationship. Or, worse, sometimes the lack of communication leads to a disconnect altogether.
One of the tricks I like to teach couples is the value of A.R.E. discussions. During A.R.E. discussions, each person feels "heard" and valued, which can lead to better overall communication.
Here's the breakdown:
A: Accessibility: Can I reach you? Are you available to me?
R: Responsiveness: Are you listening to me? Am I getting a response from you?
E: Engagement: Can I count on you to engage with me in a respectful way? Are you participating in the discussion with me?
When both parties answer "yes" to each question, it signals to your partner that you want to be part of the discussion and you value them.
So, next time you're ready for a discussion, ask yourself (and your partner) if you can follow these guidelines. You might find your discussions are more productive, less combative, and generally better than before!