Rule 1: Actions speak louder than words, or nonverbal communication is more powerful than verbal communication.
Example: A contradictory, inconsistent, or double message- A husband comes in the door after work and his wife is sitting on the sofa with a sad look on her face and she does not speak. He says hello, gives her a kiss, and asks if everything is okay. She responds by saying everything is fine, but she turns her face away and starts to cry.
Rule 2: Define what is important and emphasize it; define what is unimportant and ignore it.
Example: (What not to do): “I’m so angry because you never talk to me, you don’t help around the house, you always squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom of the tube, and you never smile at my mother.”
Rule 3: Be clear and specific in communication. Do this by discussing one problem at a time, avoiding vagueness or generalities, and do not accept the use of vague words by your loved one.
Example: (What not to do): “You and the children never help around the house. I know you don’t like my mother, and you are never affectionate to me anymore.”
Rule 4: Test all you assumptions verbally. Get your partner’s okay before you make a decision that involves them.
Example: A wife is told by her husband that he has invited another couple for dinner. He has “assumed” his wife would not mind. In fact, she may become angry, because she was not consulted. A woman decides to rearrange he bedroom furniture. The husband feels that he has been ignored and that his opinion does not matter.
Rule 5: Realize that each event can be seen from a different point of view.
Example: When a member of a family makes a statement from a perception that he or she believes to be true, another person may not agree because his or her interpretation of the situation presented is contrary to the first person’s belief.
Rule 6: Learn to disagree without destructive arguments.
Example: One family member may be an extreme conservative while another is a radical democrat, but the different views don’t need to be argued at all times or escalated into an aggressive fight.
Rule 7: Be open and honest about your feelings.
Example: “I feel hurt that you call me to tell me you would be home late because I was worried about you all night.”
Rule 8: Let the effect, not the intention, of your communication be your guide.
Example: Realizing the effect of what you said on your partner and being able to communicate what the intent was without creating another negative effect/response.
Rule 9: Do not preach or lecture.
Example: A mother says to her teenager, “you need to be saving your money, not spending all of it. You need to have money for college and a car, not fast food and games. When I was your age I had twice the savings you do.”
Rule 10: Do not use excuses or fall for excuses.
Example: Someone saying, “I ran out of gas which made me late” all of the time.
Rule 11: Learn when to use humor and when to be serious. Do not subject your partner to destructive teasing.
Example: Teasing the other person in an argument and then insisting you were “just kidding.”