Everyone wants to be better at problem-solving. After all, it’s what helps drive effective communication — at work, with friends, and as couples. Many couples I see in my practice definitely want to problem solve. And yes, they do need solutions for their issues and problems; we all want those things in our lives. While I do want to help them with problems, I’m really trying to teach people how to improve their emotional understanding.
This might surprise you, but problem-solving is the last thing I do. Starting with problem-solving is a waste of time!
Starting anywhere except attending to emotions will derail you most of the time
Too many couples think they need to be better at problem-solving. And for all intents and purposes, perhaps they do. But in light of our ongoing conversation on emotional intelligence, it’s important to note that starting with problem-solving is a surefire way to get stuck in a “who is right and who is wrong” scenario. Or, you start looking at who is at fault or to blame. This only leads to lots of yelling, anger, and negative emotions. Remember … we all have different views and will rarely see or even hear the situation or event we’re dealing with the same way.
Real communication happens when we focus first on emotional understanding. Instead of solving the problem, we fully understand one another at an emotional level. In other words, we care about the person we love FIRST!
What are they feeling? What am I feeling?
Why is this so important to him/her?
Where in the body do I feel it? What response is it causing?
Why is emotional understanding so important?
- Healthy relationships work at building a foundation of trust.
- Each person has room to be who they are and feel how they feel.
- Safety first! Choosing to care is the first step in creating safe communication.
- When we believe our feelings are understood and matter, we relax and become more open and cooperative.
- When the voice of the heart is valued, the heart and spirit remain open.
Communication is not complete until:
- The listener understands what the speaker is saying
- The speaker feels understood
As the Gottman Institute said in one of their more recent blog posts, “the more awareness you can bring to your own emotions, the less likely you are to become overwhelmed by them, and the more you can help your loved ones when they experience difficult emotions.” Once we do that, we can start problem-solving — because we’ve slowed down long enough to understand the feelings involved.
Emotional understanding: Do you have issues or events?
When it comes to emotional understanding, it’s important to learn to differentiate between issues and events in your communication. An event is a time-limited happening that most likely has underlying, bigger issues. Meanwhile, an issue is generally a pervasive root problem seen in many events or situations in a relationship.
These can cause couples to start and stay in unhealthy cycles!
Here’s a great example: a large, unexpected credit card bill comes in the mail and leads to a heated argument. This is an event that happened. But the problem is deeper: an ongoing financial disagreement or difference in preference on how to handle money.
Each partner may have a completely different meaning of what matters concerning money. THAT is the issue, and it hasn’t been properly talked through and processed together. Instead, they argue about the credit card bill.
So, how do we handle Issues and Events?
Events can often be handled by observing good communication rules and taking breaks!
Issues can be kept smaller and less negative by regularly dealing with the problems that come your way.
Hidden issues usually respond well to open, safe, and clear communication.
What we are saying is that problem-solving is only one part of the process, and we should never start there.
“Real communication happens when there is a commitment to emotional understanding.” Mike Dawson
We listen to each other’s hearts, then implement solutions that both people can feel good about! This takes an open mind, understanding everyone’s emotions, having good attitudes toward each other, and relying plenty on sacrifice and compromise.
Do you need help with your communication?
Watch this 10-minute COMMUNICATION MAKEOVER
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Our heart is and always has been devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have the tools to know and understand how important trust in a marriage is for you and your spouse. Plus, we want to help other couples just like you. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here. Join us on social media. IG – MikeandSusanDawsonCo. FB – MikeandSusanDawson
What do you think? How would you rank you and your spouse’s ability to emotionally understand each other? How did that help you in problem-solving? We want to hear your stories. Send us a quick email and let us know. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.