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4 Communication Styles in Relationships. Which One Are You?

Often people feel really stuck when it comes to communicating in their relationship. How open should I be? Won’t my vulnerability make my partner run for the hills? What does it even mean to share how I am feeling? Another way that communication can fall short is not just how we share how we are doing but also how we connect with our partner when they are sharing how they are doing.

Have you ever experienced sharing something you were really excited about and your partner gives you the least satisfactory response you could have imagined? I know I have, and I am sure at times I have been the one to give said response. Hopefully neither we nor our partners do this intentionally but being more mindful can not only improve the state of our relationship but also improve our own awareness of how we engage in our relationship.

Vienna Pharaon of mindfulmft recently wrote an email about these 4 communication strategies which I have copied below. I highly recommend you sign up for her newsletters (they don’t get posted to her website so it’s the only way to get her content). Truthfully she is one of my favourite relationship experts and I always learn something from her.

The One Communication Skill You NEED

A lot of us spend time trying to figure out better ways to respond when we’re in conflict. We work tirelessly at becoming less reactive and aim to turn conflict into connection and intimacy. All important stuff. But how we respond to good news is actually just as, if not more important than the way we respond to negative news.


Pay attention here.


The strength of your relationships might actually be revealed in how well you respond to the sharing of good news from your partners or spouses.


Research shows that there are four response styles. As you read through these, I want you to consider that your partner or friend just shared with you the following news:


“I just finished my first ever half marathon! I’m so excited. I hit my goal for the race and am so relieved I completed it.”


Passive Constructive 


Passive constructive responding is quiet, low energy, somewhat forced with a fake smile.

Your response might sound something like:


“Oh, cool. That’s nice. Good for you. Anyways, let’s get on with this workout.”


Passive Destructive


Passive deconstructive responding ignores the event and avoids acknowledging the good news. The person might focus on themselves and be me-centered.

Your response might sound something like:


“Congrats…can you believe I ran 10 miles yesterday?! Not my best but I’m going to run 12 today.”


Active Constructive


Active constructive responding is enthusiastic and supportive. The person is energized and engaged, often asks questions, and comes off as genuine and authentic.

Your response might sound something like:


“OMG! That’s amazing! I knew you could do it! How does it feel? How will you celebrate?”


Active Destructive 


Active deconstructive responding crushes the event entirely while highlighting the drawbacks. They’ll often find ways to turn the positives into negatives.

Your response might sound something like:


“I don’t believe it. Well be careful with your knees. That amount of running can really hurt you in the long run.”


WOMP.WOMP.WOMP. after that last one, hey?


Now, we’ve probably ALL done all versions of the above before, so no need to crawl in a hole, but take a moment to consider how it is you respond to the people around you?


Active destructive responding is really detrimental to relationships. No, that doesn’t mean that you can’t ever voice concerns (you should!), but it may mean that you don’t do it right in that moment. When someone is trying to celebrate something with you, take a moment to lean in and do the dance with them. You might be worried about their knees, but give them a chance to relish in their victory!


The research shows that people who receive active constructive responses when they share good news report feeling understood, validated, and cared for to a much higher degree than people who receive any other type of responses. Sounds like something we can all be doing!


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