You have an idea that you want to communicate differently, but it can be difficult to make the behavioral changes necessary to put the new idea to work. Do not let the fear or anxiety of doing something new get in the way of choosing to use communication skills that will lead to a happier and more satisfying relationship. Please remember that trying something new and different can at first feel uncomfortable. At first, practicing these new communication skills may feel mechanical or generic. When you are practicing new communication skills you will be hyper-aware of what you are doing and your experience may not feel genuine.
Take the scenario of learning to ride a bike to demonstrate how new behaviors can become natural.
When you first learned how to ride a bike, you were hyper-aware of each step necessary to staying on the bike without falling off. You knew you needed to sit on the seat, as you balanced yourself with both feet on the ground. You then had to discover how to stay balanced while you placed each foot on the pedals. This may have lead to you falling off your bike or feeling uneasy. After practicing your balance while sedentary, you had to practice your balance while moving your feet on the peddles. This may have caused your younger self a bit of anxiety. You needed to be aware of each step in the process, because forgetting one step would upset the outcome. As you continued to practice, the behaviors became much more natural. The steps no longer were separate, but rather flowed together. Interestingly, after you practice these behaviors they are heard to unlearn. You most likely would be able to ride a bike even if you have not been on a bike in years.
The one thing that may be different between learning how to communicate with your partner more effectively and learning to ride a bike is the emotional investment you have in your relationship. This emotional investment may cause you to fear taking that first step. Just like riding a bike, there have been many times in your life that you have taken on a new and difficult challenge. It may have been a weight loss challenge, a new exercise routine, or a decision to change career fields. Life is full of opportunities to practice new behaviors.
Below are some questions I want you to answer about a time when you have successfully taken on a new challenge or learned a new skill.
Imagine a time when you attempted something new. Remember how your mind and body felt during this new experience. As you place yourself in this memory, think about the questions below.
- What were you most nervous or anxious about?
- How did you body feel when you decided to confront that nervousness and anxiety head on?
- What did you tell yourself that allowed you to keep going and not say “NO” in the face of anxiety?
- Where in your body did you feel your nervousness and anxiety?
- What types of negative messages did you tell yourself about your ability to take on a new challenge?
- What coping mechanisms did you use to help calm your nervousness and anxiety?
- What types of positive messages did you tell yourself about your ability to take on a new challenge?
- Who did you reach out to for support?
- How did your support systems respond?
- In what ways were your support systems helpful?
- In what ways were your support systems unhelpful?
- How did your body feel when you no longer felt anxiety and nervousness when you were practicing the new behaviors or skills?
- When did you know that these new behaviors started to become more natural?
- Reviewing this memory hopefully helps to remind you that you can take on new and anxiety provoking challenges in your life.
Now think about these new communication skills you want to challenge yourself to try with your partner. I want you to think about the questions below when you put yourself in this new experience. Imagine what you need for this new experience to be successful.
- What will you tell yourself when you get nervous or anxious about trying new communication skills?
- How will you respond to negative feelings or messages?
- What coping mechanisms will you need to use to be successful?
- What kind of support do you need from your partner to be most effective practicing these skills?
- How can you ask your partner for this support?
- What kind of support does your partner need from you to be successful at practicing these skills?
- How can your partner successfully ask you for this support?
- How will you know that you are being successful?
It is important to practice and learn skills so that they become second nature. It is also important to practice new and healthy skills to replace those unhealthy skills you have continuously been practicing all of these years. Remember that practice and deciding to continue on the journey will help you shift the negative automatic behaviors into more positive behaviors that will start to become more automatic.
If you find yourself really struggling starting to practice new and healthier communication skills, and are too overwhelmed with the idea of starting on your own don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation. Each of our therapists is trained in helping clients develop the skills to have more satisfying relationship. To contact a therapist at The Center for Growth / Sex Therapy in Philadelphia call 267 324 9564.