Do you want to be happy, or do you want to be right?

In spite of the stellar example being set for us by our government, it is possible to be a good communicator. Hell, it’s even possible to resolve conflict that way.

I know.

(Take your jaw off the floor.)

—Not all conflicts need to turn into Brexit.—Not all conflicts need to turn into Brexit.—Not all conflicts need to turn into Brexit.—

Why are we bad at this?

You know how it is, you say; “You forgot to take the bins out again.” Two minutes later… it’s World War 3, no-one can figure out how they got there, and your recycling is still taking up half the kitchen. If only we could just... believe in the bin. (couldn't resist)

The answer probably lies in your childhood. Communication isn’t something that’s taught (why? why? why?!?!?!), so our comms skills are probably inherited from our families; silence, screaming matches, guilt and all.

You’re so negative

Another cruel joke in our scientific makeup is that our brains are hard-wired to be negative. Avoiding danger takes priority over enjoying a nice bubble bath, right? Your brain agrees. So, when something has gone on that you don’t like, it’s natural to fixate on it. The issue is that doing so with a partner or friend makes them feel attacked or useless, as they can’t change something that’s already happened.

So, how do we get better?

Communication is one of those things that takes fairly consistent practice to get right. (More here on how to create good habits.) But, once you’ve nailed it and forgotten when your last pointless argument was, it’s so worth it.

1. Tell them what you want

Clearly saying what you want in the future, instead of focussing on past misdemeanors will help to avoid a defensive response, that could take you further away from getting there.

2. Give them a compliment sandwich

Known by relationship specialist Dr John Gottman as a “soft start-up” (LOL), this crafty technique delivers whatever critique you have in-between positive feedback about things they’ve been doing right. This softens the blow, and reassures them that you still like them. (Hint: It’s also worth reminding yourself to use “I” statements, rather than accusatory “you” statements.)

3. “It’s not you, it’s us”

Whatever pickle you’re in, you’re in it together, and blame won’t get you anywhere. Instead, focus on how you can work together to solve the problem and move forward. Even if it might feel good for a second to get all self-righteous and Judge Judy on your significant other, resist. it’s only going to cause them to feel shame, possibly withdraw from you, and ultimately make it harder to move on.