Module 3: Steps 9-11
Now that we’ve talked about observing your partner’s nonverbal cues, let’s cover your own. It’s usually much easier to notice someone else’s than our own.
First, try to speak slowly. I’m a bit of a motormouth, so this one is particularly salient for me. And funny enough, my partner tended to talk so slowly I couldn’t always tell when he finished a sentence.
So between the two of us, we managed a plethora of accidental interrupting with a dash of rambling – particularly in heated or excited discussions. When our emotions ran high, whether positive or negative, our verbal communication suffered. While I was getting plenty of words out, they weren’t as meaningful as I would’ve liked.
My speedy chatter has been a challenge in all my verbal communication. My mind is prone to racing, so more often than not I’m whizzing from thought to thought. I tend to rush trying to get everything I want to say out, especially if I’m not actually sure what I want to say.
Rambling is an unfortunate talent of mine. The more words I hurried to say, the less information I communicated. My partner and I found ourselves talking past each other, not with each other.
But when I slowed down my speech, something really cool started happening. Sometimes, by focusing on slowing my words, my thoughts actually slowed down too. Instead of racing through every thought blip, I started thinking about my words before I said them.
I put more value on what I said. And slowly, over a few months of practice, I started speaking more briefly too. Unlike when I tried to push my every thought out into speech, I started weighing both.
It’s been many months since, and that’s the deepest lesson I’ve learned: there’s no rush. Taking some extra time to breathe, relax, and settle doesn’t waste time - it makes the time I have more valuable. Words are best when said slowly and thoughtfully, for both speaker and listener. When I’m the speaker, slowing down grounds me and helps me get to the heart of my point. When I’m the listener, slower words are easier to process and understand.
Here’s a little exercise for you. (I can thank my public speaking teacher for this one!) Practice talking when you’re alone. I like to say about three sentences of whatever’s on my mind. Now say it again, but twice as slow. And again, but even slower. My teacher’s gem of advice was this: if you think you’re talking too slowly, then you’re at the perfect speed.
But talking slower and briefer is only the first half. Second half? Speak warmly. This one is the trickiest for me, and always has been.
I can get very passionate when I speak, and I was used to letting it all fall out, so to speak, with my partner. We’d built a pretty solid relationship over the years, and I was used to letting all my best and worst parts just fly in the wind with him. Then when we inevitably had disagreements, I would quickly retreat back into myself for a while. I’d ice him out to make myself feel safe, and then slowly reopen as time passed. It was a troublesome pattern.
Speaking more mindfully was a huge step in breaking that pattern for me. But I still had a lot to learn about how I was speaking, not just saying less and saying it slower.
Both me and my partner were doing something problematic. When we disagreed, the words themselves often weren’t over-the-top hostile. But our body language and vocal tone while we said them? That could be a different story altogether.
I know I could take on quite a cold, distant demeanor. I’d cross my arms, lean away, look away or down, sigh, frown, and speak in clipped and icy tones to communicate my displeasure. My partner often did the same.
Unfortunately, that method didn’t exactly foster trust and openness between us. My partner absolutely hated when I iced him out, but I couldn’t seem to stop. At least, not until this module woke me up to the pattern at play.
As we talked through this trust and intimacy-centered module, our conversation itself started to shift. Just by thinking about and discussing communication values tools, we started adopting them almost subconsciously. And as we both relaxed into the journey, I took some important steps toward fixing that most challenging icy demeanor.
Firstly, I listened to myself when I spoke – and noticed how I felt when I started retreating behind an icy wall. I did so when I felt ashamed, guilty, hurt, or exposed. I’m still on that journey of finding peace in vulnerability. For me, speaking coldly was really me grasping for control back, so I could feel strong, self-assured, and in the right. Problem was, that’s no way to foster a good partnership.
I’d love to say I just mulled it over, made an action plan with my partner, and put it in practice. But really, it was a very slow process. It happened gradually as we continued through the course.
Profound Partnerships has a funny way of getting me to be vulnerable without feeling weak or in danger. Rather, the calm discussions my partner and I had left me feeling relaxed, curious, connected, and relieved.
So, here’s another reminder of the journey: you won’t improve all at once, and that’s okay. All you need to do is just try.
Some days you’ll feel like you’ve mastered the course and you’re in the best partnership ever. Some days you’ll probably feel like you just can’t get it and wonder what you’re doing wrong.
Looking back, I can assure you that’s just part of the process. For me, speaking with a warm, loving tone even when upset took the longest out of anything else in this module. But you know what? I’m improving. I’m growing. At the end of the day, that’s the best I can ask for.
And I can assure you the journey is well worth it.