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Communication Skills: 5 Lessons Inspired by the 2nd Presidential Debate


Communication Skills


Let me be clear about two things from the start:


Disclaimer No. 1:

I did not watch the debate when it ran live. For better or worse, I had decided against it. Having seen the ripple effects everywhere around me in the days that followed, I decided otherwise and took some time last night to watch it afterall.

So, if it seems like I am late in arriving to the party, that is why.


Disclaimer No. 2:

I am not interested in making any sort of political statements. This is also not to be seen as endorsement of either candidate. I have no desire to point fingers. I am not looking to start a discussion for or against any party.

I am just a couples therapist who couldn’t help herself but take what was delivered to her on a silver platter and make some use of it for my life and yours.

For your marriage or relationship and for mine.

No matter what side of the spectrum you are on, this applies to us all.

Here’s me to hoping that we can learn something from this.

That’s it. End of story.


So – Here we go.


These are in no particular order. [Don’t miss the BONUS item at the end – It’s my personal favorite.]


Communication Skills  – Lesson No. 1 — Don’t interrupt your spouse when they speak


Really. Just stop doing it.

It never served anyone. Believe me.

Figure out whether it’s your time to speak or your time to listen and stick to that. When you interrupt your spouse (or anyone, for that matter), it shows disrespect.

It’s as simple as that.

Unlike the presidential campaign, your ultimate goal (and yes, I am somewhat making an assumption here) is to get along with the person you are talking to. Your spouse, your partner, your fiancé.

Am I right?

It’s to communicate with your spouse in a way that makes things better for your marriage.

So, really. Just quit it.

There is no way around it.


Communication Skills – Lesson No. 2 — When you are asked a question, answer it


There is no secret message hidden in those three simple words.

Answer. The. Question.


When you are asked a question, don’t answer by saying what you think the other person thinks or believes about this or that matter.

When your spouse asks a question of you, they don’t need (or want) you to state (or start guessing) what their response would have been.

You don’t need to learn how to master the art of reading somebody else’s mind.

(Trust me, many have gone before you. Without success.)

There is no need to read between the lines.

Oh, and this. Always a good rule of thumb: If you don’t understand the question, ask the other person to clarify.


So, when someone asks you a question, answer it.

And answer it for YOURSELF.

Give your statement. Share your opinion or plan. State your reasoning.

Do it to the best of your ability.

That’s it. It’s that simple.

Because – guess what? – that is what the other person is asking for.

Whatever you do, stay away from starting your reply with “I know what you think about this…I know what you believe about that… and it’s [insert the S word]”

Even our 7-year old knows ‘stupid’ is a bad word.

Which – surprise, surprise –  brings me to the next item on the list.


Communication Skills – Lesson No. 3 — Don’t be vulgar


This seems like a no-brainer.

Or it should, anyway.

We teach our children this from the time they learn their first word until they leave the house.

And even years past that sometimes.

Yet, once we hit adulthood, somehow the rules have been altered and this became ok to do.

Using derogatory terms to address your spouse.

Utilizing vulgar language in their presence.


Using accusatory language.

It never serves anyone. Not if you want to get ahead, that is.

People have a tendency to stop listening. Sometimes they completely disengage.

And sometimes, they end up completely dismissing what you have to say when the language you use is dishonoring of who they are.

And you are the only one to blame.


Communication Skills – Lesson No. 4 — Trust your spouse first


If you are ever questioning something your spouse did, ask them about it.

When they answer, take their word for it. Believe what they say because of the person you know they are.

Don’t accuse them of lying just because.

Don’t accuse them of lying because you are insecure.

Don’t accuse them of lying because that’s your mode of operation.


Whatever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty”???

When did it fall on its head- when did we start saying “guilty until proven otherwise?”

Don’t make conclusions with nothing to back them up.

Your spouse deserves better than that.

Enough said.


Communication Skills – Lesson No. 5: Beware of your nonverbal communication


This is no new thing.

93% of what you say is nonverbal communication.

You know what I am talking about – the rolling of the eyes, the heavy breathing, the smiles when you aren’t really smiling. All of that and more.

Now, while during the presidential debate this may not be that clear-cut, in your intimate relationship this will most definitely come bite you in the behind.

Notice what you do.

Pay attention to what other people say to you in response.

And if that is not your goal or intention, notice what you do with your face.

Note how loud your voice is when you speak.

And please, if there are twelve people lined up telling you one and the same thing, start listening. They can’t all be so gravely mistaken.

Think about it.

It may be that it’s you who is driving the wrong way on the interstate. Not everybody else.


And remember, you don’t have to agree on everything. In fact, most couples don’t. But, they figure out how to agree to disagree on some things.

And there is nothing wrong with that.


Communication Skills – BONUS (as promised):  Don’t raise index finger while your spouse is still talking


Same thing goes for talking over them while they are still sharing with you.

Not only do you come off as impatient.

And rude.

And disrespectful. (I know, this again. It seems to come up a lot.)

Not only is it indicative that you have stopped listening to what the other person is saying.

Because, you know, you can’t listen and formulate your response at the same time.

You can’t come up with your argument – or the answer to: how am I going to defend myself? – and pretend to be listening.

It’s impossible.

Again, many have tried. And failed miserably.

And, how on point is your argument going to be  when the other person hasn’t even finished their point yet?


Here’s what the message is that you are getting across when you do that:

It’s saying I don’t really care what you have to say.

It’s saying I am honestly not even listening to you anymore.

It’s saying I can’t wait for you to finish because I have better, smarter, more important things to say.

What you have to say doesn’t really matter.


Now, you and I both know that is NOT what you want to communicate to  the person you most care about in this world. So, watch out for this one.

When done right, it has long-term consequences. And the potential to change the way you think about every future conversation. For the better.


Final Thought


This is it. It’s these 5+1 simple communication skills.

Do you see yourself anywhere in this?

Guilty as charged?

That’s alright.

Change starts with taking notice. And then, taking a stance.

Here’s to me hoping that we can learn something from this. Trusting that we can improve the space we share with the people closest to us.

The ones that matters the most.



Know someone who would get a kick out of this before the next debate?

I’d love it if you’d share.