How to communicate better with your spouse no matter how long you’ve been together
(written intro for social posts - 30 years is a long time to be together, but, as I’m going to share with you, it’s amazing how much you can still learn and grow from good communication skills. It isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it. Take a listen and see how you can communicate better.)
Hello my lovelies and welcome to the Moving Toward Better podcast. I’m your host, Karen Bemmes. I’m a business, relationship and life coach, and my superpower is helping you unleash your inner badass to become the real you in the real world because anything less is just BS. Today we’re talking about communication, and I’m not talking about just any communication. I’m talking about deep and difficult communication with the ones you’ve known the longest and hopefully love the best. You may think you know everything about them, and there’s nothing more to learn, but I assure you, there is so much more to communicating with other people and the more you open your mind and your heart to learning about others, the more amazing life becomes. You realize that we’re all human with frailties and vulnerabilities even though most of us try to hide them as much as possible.
Let me start out with a disclaimer that I am not a mental health professional. Any and all medical information that I talk about are the result of conversations with those types of professionals I trust. Any claims or suggestions I make should always be discussed with your own medical or mental health team before making decisions for yourself. So let’s get started.
Recently I was talking to my husband about something very important, and we both found out that we had made assumptions about a very important subject that deeply affected our marriage for the past 20 years, and it was one of those revelations that rocks your world, and it was more than either of us bargained for. We barely talked for an entire day, and just in case you’re wondering, no, I won’t be telling you what those assumptions were because it was that personal.
What I will tell you is that if we hadn’t had 20+ years of knowing about our personalities, having daily communication no matter how far apart we are or how difficult life is, these assumptions could have been marriage enders. Yikes, huh?
Because we have worked on our communication, we knew to take a breath and step back before condemning one another because in the end, both of us thought we were right, and here’s one of the most powerful communication skills you can learn, to let the other person feel like they’re right even when you feel like you are. Some call it agree to disagree, and it is one of the most difficult communication skills to master, especially in the US when we seem to have this compulsion to “win”, and I put that in air quotes when I say it because no one wins if you approach these types of situations with that type of attitude.
In our case, I would swear in a court of law that my husband said something, and he would swear he didn’t. I am sure, and so is he, but because we don’t have it recorded, we’ll never know, so what do we do?
We start from where we are and move forward because if either one of us says we’re wrong, we would be lying and betraying ourselves, and that’s no way to live, in my opinion. It’s how we move beyond an impasse in our relationships and create new and better relationships in the future because you can bet I’ll be asking for clarification in the future and so will my husband.
So how does this work for each personality type?
For the D personality, it’s easy for you to make assumptions because you make decisions quickly and often assume that you’re right. Maybe you are, but when you find someone else thinks differently than you do, it’s a struggle because you always want to be right, and in a discussion (cough, cough) argument, you’ll hold your ground even if you realize you’re wrong at some point because you want to win. Boy can that cause some trouble.
Does that sound familiar? Some or maybe even most of the D personalities would actually laugh about that, but if your partner or the person you’re talking to has a different personality, I assure that they aren’t. If you value that relationship, it’s important to know that winning at all costs sometimes exacts a high price, and that price may be more than you’re willing to pay, but you won’t know until you look back and realize what you’ve done.
So here’s the thing. You need to listen to those you’re arguing or discussing things with. When they say, “I don’t want to talk about this” right now or “I don’t want to talk about this” anymore, you’ve reached a boundary, and I suggest you proceed with caution. This is a phrase that the other personalities use when they are feeling backed in a corner and if you value the relationship, it might be time for a time out. I know your natural tendency is to lean in for the kill, and in some instances, I would cheer you on, but if this relationship means something to you, it’s time to back off.
The best question you can ask yourself is whether you need to resolve the issue at this minute or can it wait? If it can wait, the kindest thing you can do is give the other person some space to process and gather their thoughts, and as much as you want to win, the resolution can be much more valuable when both of you are working toward a mutual win rather than against one another for your momentary gratification. Difficult, I know, and the decision is completely up to you, but it’s worth it to ask yourself what your true priorities are, being right or keeping your relationship intact because the other personalities don’t get over things like you do.
For the I personality, you love to talk about everything, but you don’t like to argue about anything. When discussions become difficult, you do your best to direct the conversation away from conflict because you don’t want a discussion that could lead to someone being angry with you or worse, not liking you.
I know this because I am you, and I have had this exact thing happen to me. I lost a friend because we had a disagreement, and we couldn’t agree to disagree. Because of her personality, she wanted me to say I was wrong, and even five years later, I don’t think I was, but she does. I was and am still willing to be her friend, but she isn’t willing to be mine, and there’s not one thing I can do to change that and keep my integrity, so we co-exist but will never be friends again.
At first, that hurt a lot, but as the years have passed, I found out that the very things that I said that offended one person helped others, so as hard as it is to see friends slip away, it’s worse to lose a part of yourself trying to fit in someone else’s box, and that happens to the I personality a lot because you coax people out of their box, and that’s a truly scary place for some people. Listen carefully, and you’ll figure out when it’s time to step back and let nature take its course, and trust me, you’ll be better for it.
Also, while some people might say “Hey! You just told the D personality to stand down and you’re telling the I personality to hold their ground. What’s up with that?” The reason I do that is because the I personality can betray themselves and become a people pleaser to let a bully have their way. For them standing up for themselves is an act of courage, just as stepping back is an act of courage for the D personality. If you have one of those as your dominant personality, you truly know what I mean. If not, it might sound contradictory, but it really isn’t.
For the S personality, you detest confrontation because you truly want to support others. Confrontation is the worst for your personality, and it can truly make you sick if you’re steeped in it for too long. This is the struggle of the sensitive child and adult. They know when there are communication issues in the house and often have no idea what to do about it, so they try to make everyone happy and usually end up making themselves miserable.
Some S personalities carry that into adulthood and become people pleasers or worse, victims of abuse because they don't speak up even when they need to for their own safety. But that doesn't have to be the case. Even the tender hearted S personality can learn to set appropriate boundaries, but their boundaries look very different from other personality types.
While other personalities can take a bit of argument, the supportive personality gets off balance quickly when anger and conflict come their way. They, more than any other personality type, need to walk away for their own sanity. To some, it looks like shutting down, but for the S personality, it’s self-preservation, unless it lasts too long. Then the S personality is shutting down in an unhealthy way that turns into the silent treatment which doesn’t bode well for anyone. That does not mean that the S personality cannot grow, heal and even have deep discussions with disagreements. It does mean that those discussions need to stay civil and kind for them to have real value to the S personality.
When that happens, the S person can go deep and have incredible discussions with all kinds of respectful banter, so the challenge for the S personality, then, is to keep the conversation conversational and when it begins to stray, to bring it back to a level of civility that works for them and the people they’re dealing with.
That reminds me of a story from my high D DISC mentor who said the word he heard most from his high S mother was the word “tone”. Every time they would get into a “discussion”, she would remind him about his tone. Even when he thought he was being very respectful, she often didn’t agree, not because of the words he used but because of the tone that he used them with. As an S, having a word like “tone” to indicate when a discussion is getting to a point that it becomes uncomfortable can be a life saver for you. It helps you set an important boundary without having to become something you’re not. For other personalities, that’s an easy thing to do. For the S personality, it’s a struggle and a triumph when they achieve it.
Then we come to the C personality. You, my friend, are the person who not only wants to be right, you usually are and are also ready to go to the mat to prove it. What you don’t always see is the damage you do as you destroy someone else for being wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to know things and to be able to provide facts and knowledge to people, but it can be a bit much sometimes for the other personalities. For example, we were at a game night once and witnessed a 20 minute argument about the rules of my husband’s favorite game. We left soon after, and we never played that game again because that argument was the first thing that my husband thought about whenever he saw that game and it took all the fun out of it for him. Ironically, my husband has that C component in his personality mix, but because he also has an S component, he did not like the argument at all. I’m sure the other people involved never gave that discussion a second thought, but it never left my husband.
Facts and truth are important to the C personality, but while their actual facts may be right, the way they share them may be difficult for other personalities. That doesn’t mean that you should stop sharing. What it does mean is that you need to realize that not everyone has the passion for the small details that you do, and you need to assess if you are willing to destroy a relationship over it.
One of the things about the C personality is that they are the people that if you ask them the question, “Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?” They would say “right” because being right makes them happy. That’s all well and good if you can let others feel like they are important even if they don’t have all the facts. Otherwise, you end up with a lot of facts but fewer friends and family, but that decision is entirely up to you.
I had a high C coworker who was always grumpy when I brought my invoices to her. I worked at a local ad agency as a junior media buyer, and she was in accounting, and she always seemed to be mad at me. One day I asked her if I was doing something wrong, and she seemed shocked that I even asked. She replied that she kept asking people to organize their invoices in a certain way, but nobody listened to her. I asked her what she wanted and realized it would take less than 30 seconds to comply, so I said, “Ok”. She looked at me like she didn’t believe me, but it was an easy thing to do and once I started implementing it, she even started smiling when she saw me. Other people asked me why she liked me when she seemed to dislike everyone else in our department, so I told them about the invoices and how I organized them for her. They thought what she wanted was ridiculous and refused to do it, but because I took a minute or so to do something she preferred, she liked me and not them. I call that a definite win.
While all of this may seem difficult and overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Anyone can get better at understanding others and how to work with them in every area of life. You can find little ways to connect with people rather than conflict with them and recognize things that are intrinsic to their personality, not things they do to annoy you. Learning about personalities teaches you how to see the best in others and understand when they’re out of balance and learn how to deal with them in both instances. It all starts with taking your own assessment, which you can access from the show notes or go to the Moving Toward Better homepage and click the Take an Assessment button. It’s a $12.95 investment that can change your life for the better in every way.
Then, to take your life beyond a simple understanding of yourself and others, you have two great choices. You can book a one on one session to get a deep dive into ways to boost your success in every area of your life or you can sign up for the Moving Toward Better DISCover Better Retreat in September. That’s where we take everything about your personality and super charge it in ways you can’t even imagine.
At the retreat, we'll teach you how to make every area of your life and business work in tandem WITH your personality rather than against it. Trust me, when you do that, you’ll live better than you ever dreamed you could.
Instead of returning to the grind after the retreat, you return to your life feeling amazing because of the strategies you’ll learn and implement instantly to make positive changes in your life and business. It’s going to be a fun weekend where you’ll learn how to support those you love in ways that are meaningful to them and you. You'll learn how to get the best from yourself and others by genuinely speaking "their language" without denying or burying yours. Tickets are limited, so reserve your spot today at https://www.movingtowardbetter.com/2022-september-retreat .
It’s going to be a great time to recharge and return to your life feeling better equipped to deal with everything in your world than ever before. Sign up today, seriously.
Finally, if you know someone this episode can help, please share with them. We all deserve to have better communication in our lives in ways that are meaningful for us. Also, remember to subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you’re listening to so you know when a new episode drops.
It is truly my mission to help people upgrade their life, feel better in their own skin and create a life that they love, whatever that means for them, so until next time, keep moving toward better with your unique and amazing personality. Love you all, and I’ll see you soon.
Links mentioned in this show:
Moving Toward Better Website
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Intro and Outro music licensed from Melody Loops.