How can couples communicate more effectively about retirement issues? In “The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle,” Taylor and Mintzer provide these guidelines:
- How to start the conversation. For example, agree to talk together and focus on listening to one another; start with an agreed-upon topic; set a time limit; agree to not blame each other; agree to disagree; don’t bring up past issues unless they are absolutely relevant to moving forward; don’t make assumptions; and remember, it’s not about who’s right or wrong, it’s about being understood.
- How to communicate clearly. Use “I” statements (e.g., “I feel sad when you say that,” instead of “You make me upset when you say that”); avoid saying “always” and “never”; express your thoughts and feelings clearly, honestly and simply; be aware of your tone of voice and body language; don’t blame your partner for your feelings.
- How to be a good listener. Stay present; keep focused on what your partner’s saying; don’t interrupt; don’t make assumptions without hearing your partner completely; make eye contact; listen, rather than focusing on your next response; be aware of nonverbal cues to how your partner may be feeling; try to hear and appreciate what they’re saying even if you don’t agree; avoid being judgmental and defensive.
- How to bring up a difficult issue. Let your partner know there’s something important you want to talk about; find a time to talk where you won’t be interrupted; be clear and specific about your feelings; be open to hearing your partner’s perspective; set a time limit for the discussion.
- How to compromise. Approach the conversation with a positive attitude; be open to what you can agree on; be clear about what’s most important to you and why; try to understand what’s most important to your partner; recognize that you might have different points of view; compromise is not about right or wrong; rather than staying stuck in your position, look for a win-win outcome; don’t give in just to make peace.
- How to problem-solve together. Make a list of points that are most important to each of you; take turns sharing, listening and hearing deeply; don’t waste time and energy on things you can’t control, but focus on what you can control; make a list of similarities and differences between your lists; talk through the pros and cons together; take time brainstorming what you both would like.