How to Improve Communication Using a Soft Start

When you have a great idea to tell your partner, or you are finally ready to address a conflict and get it out of the way, you may have the urge to pick up the phone or walk into the room where your partner is sitting and strike up the conversation immediately.

However, if your partner was engaged in a different activity when you walked in or called, you may be met with a response that you weren’t expecting. They’re grumpy about it. They roll their eyes. They shut you down.

Ouch. Their response hurts.

But think about it from their perspective for a second. In fact, let’s specifically pretend that you’re in their position:

You’re in the middle of a big project at work. The words are flying, the ideas are churning, and you’ve found the motivation you’ve been looking for all week. It’s great.

And then your spouse bursts into the room and starts talking about an idea that is completely off-topic, throwing you off your game. You’d feel kind of frustrated, right?

When we begin to communicate with our partner, we bring in a certain type of energy. And if that energy doesn’t match our partner’s energy, or the conversation throws our partner off, a conflict has been created.

So instead of bursting into a room or immediately diving into a dialogue, begin your communication using a “soft start.” What does that mean?

What a Soft Start Looks Like

Let’s go back to the first example.

You have a really great idea for your partner and you want to tell them. But they’re working in the next room. So you seek them out, but instead of just jumping in, you feel them out. You say, “Is this a good time to talk?” Or: “I have an idea. Can I share it with you right now?”

This allows your partner to be honest and give you a look into their energy and what they are doing. If your partner is not able to talk, respect their time. You can always ask, “When is a better time to talk?” or offer to let them be until they are finished with the task at hand.

Giving them this time will require some patience, but ultimately creates a more suitable environment for a conversation. When your partner is ready to communicate, they will be able to participate more enthusiastically.

If You Are Approached by Your Partner

Let’s flip the table once again.

You’re working or concentrating on a task and your partner approaches you with a conversation. Understand that they are excited, and it may have taken a lot of effort to finally come forward and share their ideas with you.

Be honest, but be kind. Tell your partner that now is not a good time to talk. Creating this boundary fosters more self-respect in your relationship – you should only have an intentional dialogue when you are ready.

Offer an alternative time to talk to your partner. Stick to that time, and prepare yourself for communication when you are finally ready to talk.

Want to learn more about the first steps of having an intentional dialogue? Reach out to a Delaware relationship therapist who specializes in Imago Relationship Therapy.

Walt Ciecko, Ph. D., BCB
605 Wynyard Rd
Wilmington, DE 19803