If you’re struggling to effectively communicate with your ex, these 5 tenets of positive communication will help you communicate better.
The main reason why it is so hard to communicate with an ex after a break-up is because break-ups bring with them a mixed bag of emotions and feelings: hurt, anger, guilt, resentment, shame, regret, and even hate. Some of us feel guilty for having these feelings, I personally thing that you have a right to your feelings. You have a right to feel hurt, angry, upset, guilty, or frustrated.
Regardless of what friends, family, mentors, therapists, coaches etc. may say, whatever you feel is authentically and validly what you feel.
But while whatever you feel is undoubtedly what you feel, and is authentic and valid; it’s important that how you express whatever you feel doesn’t hurt your chances of attracting back your ex.
Violent communication vs. nonviolent communication
Nonviolent communication the brainchild of psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg has been described as a language of compassion, as a tool for positive empathy.
The premise of nonviolent communication is that when we communicate our feelings with the intention to manipulate others; or use language that induces fear, guilt, shame, blame or obligation, we are engaging in a type of “violence.” We are essentially using our feelings to coerce or punish someone for not acting how we would like them to.
Nonviolent communication helps us better communicate how we feel by:
- Observing what’s happening – what’s really going on that you either like or dislike?
- Identifying our feelings about it – anger, joy, hopeful, inspired, lonely?
- Figuring out what need we have that is driving that feeling
- Asking for what we need (directly and clearly)
The whole book itself is a little hard to implement and controversial in some places, but these simple practical tools are remarkably useful for improving how you communicate your feelings (and needs) and can significantly increase your chances of attracting back your ex.
1. Separate feelings from observational facts
To effectively communicate with your ex, focus on the facts before you begin assigning meaning or judgment to them. If someone doesn’t show up to a date we had planned, that’s the only observable fact I know. But when I start thinking, “This person is very rude!” or “They must hate me!” then I’m assigning meaning to my observations that may not be true. It’s important to stick to the facts if we want to engage in honest communication.
2. Focus on your feelings vs. judgement on your ex
To effectively communicate with your ex, you must be honest about your feelings without being judgmental or evaluating your ex’s response to them. When your ex isn’t putting in as much effort in making the relationship work and you say, “I feel this isn’t fair!” that’s reflecting a judgment on your ex (“He’s unfair”). Instead, it’s more proper to say, “I feel upset because…” or “I feel angry because…” which focuses on the emotions you’re feeling without turning them into a judgment on your ex.
3. Express your needs clearly
To effectively communicate with your ex, it’s helpful to understand that some feelings are “expressions of needs” that aren’t being fulfilled. It’s important to communicate your needs in a direct way. If a wife tells her husband, “You spend too much time at work” – so the husband takes a day off and plays a round of golf instead – she might be still upset if the true need she wanted to communicate was, “I wish you’d spend more time with me and the family.” If you don’t communicate your needs to others, they won’t know what you’re asking of them.
4. Make a request instead of a demand
To effectively communicate with your ex, it’s important that you speak about your feelings and your needs in terms of “requests” rather than “demands.” When we speak about our feelings with the expectation that people should just know what we want and comply to it, we aren’t putting in the necessary effort to make our feelings understood. By making a request for a specific change, we give others a much clearer idea of what it is we are asking of them.
5. Authenticity and validity
To effectively communicate your needs and feelings to your ex, make sure to honour their authenticity and validity. It’s important that you know the difference between what you’re feeling, your thoughts about what is happening; and what is actually happening.
As I said in the beginning of the article, emotions and feelings during and after a break-up are a mixed bag. And when you add in there anxiety, worry, persistent thoughts, biased perceptions, unhelpful beliefs and bad relationship advice, it’s sometimes hard to tell what is a “feeling”, what is a “thought” and what is “reality”.
I know this because I work with so many people who still love their ex very much; but are so angry with something their ex said or did that they can’t see that their ex is taking responsibility for their words or actions; and making an effort to be better. There is a contradiction between what they think, what they feel and what is happening. I have also worked with men and women who so badly want their ex back that they can’t see that what they feel does not match or fit “what is” in the moment.
The take away here is that in order to effectively communicate with your ex focus on the common good. Your ex should feels and know that you have their best interest in mind and heart, and not just want them back.