When there’s conflict in a relationship, the last thing many of us want to do is to have a confronting conversation with the other person, especially if we feel that they have wronged us.

However, if you want a resolution to the tension and pain the conflict has caused, you need to talk. These conversations can be uncomfortable, but they’re a great way to clear miscommunication, misunderstandings, and an important way to know what new boundaries may need to be implemented and so much more.

Before we go into the tips let’s be clear. With shattered trust and betrayal, there’s way more involved than just improving the lines of communication. The trust and heart of the betrayed has been shattered. Their world has been upended and they’re struggling to find solid ground. The person they thought they knew so well has just completely pulled the rug from under them and their sense of safety and security is destroyed.

Now that they’ve learned about the lies and deception, they’re questioning if everything else was a lie too. They’re reeling and experiencing deep shock, trauma and heartbreak. While communication is crucial, for these tips and strategies, we’re talking about smaller mishaps, grievances and situations. Not the life-altering experience of betrayal.

It’s important to stress that because we have so many people coming into The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute with the additional trauma after they’ve seen certain counselors or therapists. With the best of intentions, the counselor or therapist is trying to improve the communication of both people. That’s a worthy goal but if there’s been a betrayal, it feels like an additional betrayal to the person who’s been betrayed. They’re looking to make sense and meaning out of their experience and while healthier communication is always helpful, it’s not what the betrayed needs to work on at first to begin their healing work. They need to heal from the massive shock and trauma of having life as they’ve known it shattered in an unforgettable moment of discovery from the person they loved and trusted. So, these tips are for the general and less impactful situations when we communicate with others on a daily basis.

With that in mind, here are a few ideas to strengthen and keep the communication lines open:

  1. Reopen communication by listening. You can learn about the other person’s feelings and beliefs when you’re actively listening. Many conflicts begin when one of the parties wants to be heard, as we all do, but believes that no one is listening.
  • Rather than thinking about whether you agree with what the speaker is saying, focus on their words…and what’s behind the words. Give the speaker verbal and visual cues that let them know that you hear what they’re saying.
  1. Set some ground rules. Make it safe for the other person to open up to you, and for you to share your perspective.
  • You can set a time limit for each person to speak, and the other person to listen. Usually 5 to 10 minutes is a good time frame.
  • Then, the listener should summarize what they’ve heard, so the speaker knows they were listening and understood their meaning.
  • Swap places and allow the other party to share their thoughts.
  1. Emphasize the positive. Avoid blaming and shaming.
  • Let the other person know how their actions affect you without attacking them or making accusations.
  • Explain what they can do to make it easier for you to communicate with them. Ask what you can do to communicate more effectively too.
  • Avoid yelling matches. When we yell at one another, we are no longer listening, but trying to force our view on the other. If you feel frustrated and tempted to yell, take a time out and agree to discuss the situation again once you’ve regained control of your feelings.
  • Rather than making demands or giving ultimatums, let them know how you feel and what you want by making a respectful request, with the full understanding that they have the freedom to comply or deny the request.
  • Take ownership for your part in misunderstandings. Determine how the choices you’ve made may have led up to the current conflict.
  1. Learn to respond rather than react. Take the time to plan your response, rather than letting your emotions get away from you. Consider how your response will be received.
  • If you have a hard time managing your anger or other emotions, relaxation techniques like taking a deep breath can help you lower your stress and deal more effectively with them.

While most of us spend a good part of our day talking with others, true communication takes time and practice. Even if it’s awkward and uncomfortable at first, with practice, just like everything else, you get better at it each time.

Dr. Debi
Founder and CEO, The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute

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