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Seven Guidelines for Middle-Ground Communication
By Marty Babits, LCSW, BCD,
Author of The Power of Middle Ground: A Couple's Guide to Renewing Your Relationship

If you need help regulating and resolving conflict, these guidelines are for you. They can help you make difficult conversations productive, steer you and your partner away from destructive talk, and help you nurture an atmosphere of emotional safety. Adopting these guidelines, whenever pertinent, will safeguard the middle ground within your relationship:

  1. Avoid generalizing and stereotyping. Try not to generalize about your partners moods. When you think you know how your partner feels, but don't stop to ask or listen, they can feel neglected and uncared for. There is a difference between how your partner feels and how you think they feel. Each partner's sense of emotional safety, as a result of generalizing, further diminishes.

  1. Do not blurt responses. Do not simply blurt out whatever comes to mind to your partner. Consult yourself while speaking with your partner. Do you identify with the following statement: "I didn't even know what I was going to say until I heard myself saying it." If so, this is an especially important guidelines for you to work with.

  1. No name calling. If you are disgusted with something that is going on and call your mate a mean name, the communication flow stops. And turning it back on will be a feat. When thinking before speaking, edit out the put-downs. Basic as the guidelines may seem, under stress, sticking to them is a challenge for us all.

  1. Speak honestly and judiciously. The abiding ways that you feel -- positive and negative -- need to be represented in your dialogue with your partner. Keeping dominant thoughts and feelings buried will not further the relationship. Make sure to be careful how you convey these messages, they require finesse and forethought. Think before you speak.

  1. Develop patience. Sustain it. Think through your own messages and be as available as possible to listen to and think about your partner's. Without patience, this important goal is drastically compromised. Patience within a specific talk and in the pacing of your dialogue overall can make a critical difference to relationship healing. Patience and humility blended together compose emotional stamina, which is fundamental to the creation of a secure long-term love relationship.

  1. Think about what your partner says in terms of who your partner is. You need to develop a "relationship" perspective that features a good grasp of how the situation is understood by your partner as well as by yourself. Remember -- understanding how your partner feels from within his or her purview does not mean you are acknowledging that this perspective is correct. You are not surrendering your point of view. You are simply acknowledging that it is not the only legitimate point of view.

  1. Time-out signal -- have it in place; use it as needed. Using time-outs can allow you a sense of control in the pacing of your dialogue. In the case of complex and/or difficult emotional issues this can make the difference between whether you can or can't discuss an issue productively. Without a pre-arranged signal to allow a safe method for temporarily suspending the dialogue, restarting it will be more difficult. Using time-outs does not mean that difficult issues go unaddressed. It does mean that partners have to work as a team to keep the flow of conversation going -- not simply within a single talk but between talks as well. Carve a niche in your relationship that honors this dimension of awareness and sensitivity.

Can these seven guidelines help save a floundering relationship? The short answer is yes. If you follow them consistently, you will see results. Putting these into practice with your partner will help you both learn to understand each other better, and come to find your middle ground.

© 2010 Marty Babits, LCSW, BCD, author of The Power of the Middle Ground: A Couple's Guide to Renewing Your Relationship

Author Bio
Marty Babits, LCSW, BCD (New York, NY), author of The Power of the Middle Ground: A Couple's Guide to Renewing Your Relationship, is a psychotherapist in private practice and a member of the Executive Supervisory Committee of FACTS (the Family and Couples Treatment Service) of the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy.

For more information, please visit www.PowerOfTheMiddleGround.com.