You adore your partner. Your partner is your true love, your one and only. Ahh.

And– he (or she) makes you crazy.

You’re not talking about a good crazy (you get that too). You’re  talking about this-has-got-to-change-annoying-crazy.

You’ve been together for 15 years and married for 10 of those years. Plenty of time to work out your power struggles and learn from your 5,475-10,950 mistakes (average 0-2 mistakes a day).

You strive to make life together a win-win. Win-win means you both give and take. Sometimes he’s giving more, sometimes he’s taking more and vice versa. Your relationship scale keeps balancing.

And you both do well. If there was a test, you both would get an A! (Okay, you get an A+ because you answer the bonus question!)

Then there are these crazy-annoying-making moments!

So, what are these shortcuts to improving communication so crazy-annoying-making moments are less crazy-making?

In this article:

You will get five communication shortcuts which will keep you from going bonkers and your conversations with your partner leaning towards positivity.

These shortcuts will make the difference. They work.


First Shortcut— Simply ask for what you want.

Stop complaining. Go directly to the ask.

Skip the story of how many times your wishes are ignored, you’re cleaning up after his mess again, or how you feel taken for granted. Just ask for what you want.

  • Joe, would you wipe the counters after you finish?
  • Sally, would you complete the passport renewal forms online this week so we can get it mailed off?
  • How about bringing home some sushi for dinner? I’d like a break from cooking. I’ll call ahead with our usual order if you tell me when you’ll be ready to leave the office for home. Okay?

Warning: asking may not get the results you want or results for as long as you want. Your partner may be well-intentioned, but it just isn’t on their radar (wiping the counters) so it’s a habit they don’t have.

The real payoff? It feels good to take a detour from delivering a list of complaints to a simple ask for what you want. Do it with a smile and a kiss. Communication sweetness.

Second Shortcut— Focus on mutual interests, not positions.

Jeff wants to camp out on vacation. Julie wants to take it easy and not cook or clean up. Two positions and an opportunity to focus on their mutual interests.

They both want to be outdoors in a scenic area. Is it possible to find a vacation spot which offers both camping and conveniences? A lodge perhaps? Maybe divide the vacation time between camping and eating out? Brainstorm all options together, write them down and choose.

What are your outcome goals? Are they similar? My guess is there’s a lot of agreement around having a happy, relaxing, adventurous, fun vacation. How can you help each other to get what you both want?

Focus on the mutual interests.

Third Shortcut— Start the conversation softly.

John Gottman’s research on marital couples over four decades encouraged women in particular to soften their communication to their partner– if they wanted him to be able to listen. It’s well known that learning happens in a more relaxed environment.

His research reminds us that that women are physiologically capable of self-soothing due to being wired for breast feeding.  Men on the other hand aren’t wired to self-soothe as quickly as women.

So if a group of men and women hear a sonic boom outside, the heart rate, pulse rate and blood pressure of both genders will elevate. The deescalation for women will happen more rapidly than for men. Self-soothing wiring at work.

Gottman suggests women need to apply this scientific fact and soften their communication if they want their male partners to be able to listen.

I think both men and women should heed the advice: No harsh start-ups.

Fourth Shortcut— Let your partner influence you.

Gottman’s findings strongly suggests that husbands in particular accept the influence of their wives. I think millennials tend to get this idea.

There are many benefits for both men and women when both accepts the influence of the other. Why? Because the friendship between the two positively grows.

The openness to being influenced by the other invites goodwill. It’s easier to spend more energy softening our start-ups during stressful times because we feel valued. We’re friends. Nice.

Settle into a comfortable place, a comfy chair and take some relaxing breaths during your next conversation. Open up to being influenced by your partner. Appreciate their perspective and learn. Tell them how he/she makes a difference to you.

We all appreciate hearing we matter.

Fifth Shortcut– Always reinforce the love and respect you share for him/her.

So you haven’t resolved the issue. It was just a rough conversation. Emotions were intense. Gridlock. You’re both done talking for now. Remember to offer these three words (because they are true):

I love you.

If you’re smiling you can say, I’d like to strangle you sometimes, but I do love you.

If you have love and respect in your relationship, you’ve got all kinds of stored happiness to sprinkle on a tense situation.

Sprinkle away, your way, every day.

Here’s your takeaway:

Do yourself a favor and take some communication shortcuts to sweeten the relationship journey.

Go ahead and ask for what you want, focus on mutual interests, start the conversations, (especially the difficult ones) with a softer voice, decide to be open to your partner’s influence, and/or reinforce the love and respect you feel towards your partner.

No strangling needed (or allowed). 😉

Dear readers: Please comment on any other shortcuts for improving communication.

I’d love to meet with you for a complimentary 30 minute strategy session. Bring a communication challenge (they are my favorite)! Let me know when you have an available 30 minutes.