Communication in Relationships


Nonviolent Communication; Marshall Rosenberg, PhD

Learning the difference between violent and nonviolent communication allows you to see all of the ways you may be inadvertantly having a negative impact on your life and the lives of those around you through violent communication. WHen I first started reading this book, I thought violent communication would only be more aggressive forms of communication like bullying, name-calling, belittling, etc but I soon found out it was so much more than that. Criticizing ourselves and others, implicit biases, passive aggressive talk, judgment, black-and-white thinking...harm to ourselves and others comes from so much more than aggressive dialogue. Through the help of this book, you can learn more about your own patterns of violent communication and those of others, where they come from and how to begin rewiring your communication patterns to more inclusive, non-violent forms. I think this book is one that you can read in snippets, oftentimes with me only assigning a chapter or 2 to a patient, and the nice thing is that there are so many tangible skills throughout the book that it really gives you opportunities to make those concrete and subconscious changes in how you communicate. 

The High-Conflict Couple: A Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Guide to Finding Peace, Intimacy, and Validation; Alan Fruzzetti, PhD

I have used this book with lots of clients who find themselves in high-conflict relationships. The book does a great job giving rationale and understanding for their approach and uses skills grounded in evidence-based theory to help you make changes in the way you engage in your relationships. Here is the blurb from Amazon:

"You hear and read a lot about ways to improve your relationship. But if you've tried these without much success, you're not alone. Many highly reactive couples—pairs that are quick to argue, anger, and blame—need more than just the run-of-the-mill relationship advice to solve their problems in love. When destructive emotions are at the heart of problems in your relationship, no amount of effective communication or intimacy building will fix what ails it. If you're part of a "high-conflict" couple, you need to get control of your emotions first, to stop making things worse, and only then work on building a better relationship.

The High-Conflict Couple adapts the powerful techniques of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) into skills you can use to tame out-of-control emotions that flare up in your relationship. Using mindfulness and distress tolerance techniques, you'll learn how to deescalate angry situations before they have a chance to explode into destructive fights. Other approaches will help you disclose your fears, longings, and other vulnerabilities to your partner and validate his or her experiences in return. You'll discover ways to manage problems with negotiation, not conflict, and to find true acceptance and closeness with the person you love the most."

An important note that there is a lot of stigma associated with the label of "high-conflict" so if you find yourself getting stuck on this, remind yourself that every relationship experiences conflict and the skills and approaches in this book are applicable to anyone within the spectrum of conflict in their relationships.