Effective Communication. Stop Spinning Tires.
The number one difficulty that couples present in couples counselling, is a lack of effective communication. Time and time again, couples will report this is the primary reason for attending counselling. One of the biggest reasons that couples will report having difficulty with effective communication, is that they feel like they’re continuously spinning their tires on the same problem again and again and again. But why does this happen?
Our brains are very happy when they can predict the future.
One of the things that many people don’t realize, is the fact that our brains work on expectation. Our brains are very happy when they can predict the future, and this is one of the large reasons that habits form. The more we practice, the more neuropathways are formed, the stronger the habit is reinforced. It doesn’t matter if we are learning to ride a bike, or learning to have effective communication with the people around us. The more conversation we have, the more learning takes place, and the stronger those neural pathways are reinforced.
Unfortunately, pathways do not always get us where we want to go, but routine is comfortable. When two people are in a relationship and are struggling with the same problem over and over again, it’s because the same neural pathways have developed. People fall into the old habits of, “here we go again”, “same old, same old”, “I am tired of this conversation,” etc, etc. and then inevitably people feel like they’re spinning their tires. People become frustrated because they feel like they’re having the same conversation over and over and over again, and are tired of “beating their heads against a wall”. Especially when there are no changes or positive developments. So, what can we do about it?
Knowing that the brain works on expectation, we can actually use this phenomenon to our advantage. Numerous times I will encourage clients to think about the conversation going in a different direction (just quietly to themselves). I get the client to ask themselves questions such as: What do I have to say differently? What do I have to think about differently? What am I doing to perpetuate the cycle? How can I get my partner to respond differently to me? What is my main goal or intention that I’m trying to get across? What is my partner saying that I am not listening to? What point is my partner trying to make that I am uncomfortable with?
When you ask yourself these questions, the brain has to start changing how it thinks about a particular problem. Although this is not very fun because the brain wants to rely on its pre-established neural pathways, it will start to change the conversation. The more we ask ourselves these questions, the more preparation we put into changing the narrative, the more effective we will be at changing the course and direction of the conversation.
As we said on the farm, and I’ve said before, “we get more of what we focus on”.
Come heal, grow and create together
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