Good decisions require good communication. But good communication doesn’t just happen – it’s something that takes practice, something you can work at improving.
Active listening is a really useful skill. It involves showing the other person that you hear and understand what they are saying. This means letting them have their say and really listening, then reflecting back to them what you think they have said. That way, misunderstandings are avoided.
It is also a way of talking in a way that engages your partner so that they want to listen rather than feeling challenged and ‘told off’. When people feel they are being judged or criticized they become defensive and may not want to talk further.
You may find it harder to get time together to talk. New parents often tell us that lack of time and tiredness make conversation a luxury. It’s a good idea to set aside a time in the week when you’re least tired and when you won’t be interrupted, for your money conversation.
If issues surface through the week, jot them down in a notebook. This way you’re less likely to raise an issue at the wrong time– perhaps the minute your partner returns from work. Regular and timely discussions are the best way to stop feelings stagnating and resentment building.
An exercise in active listening
Choose a quiet time and, if you have them, bring along your notes of what came up this week or what needs discussing or reviewing. Or you might simply set a topic for discussion such as “Where I’d like us to be in five years time” or “This week’s hot money topic”. Then take it in turns to each speak for a few minutes about your experience, while the other just listens.
If you find this hard you could set a timer to remind the listener it’s not their turn. Or have a ball or object that the speaker holds, and the listener cannot talk until the ball is passed to them.
When one has finished – and not before – your partner should reflect back to you what they heard paying particular attention to expressing how they sense you’re feeling. Make sure they felt heard, then repeat with the other partner.
Then move onto any practical steps you both need to take.