Young children are often inclined to use non-verbal means to express themselves. They may throw a toy, yell, babble, hit, and sometimes even bite! Even in a two-year-old this is not an effective form of communication. When children express themselves in this way it makes it difficult for us as adults to understand their needs. As a result, we might tell them to “use your words.” When a child is able to use his or her words, we are better able to understand and then attend to his or her needs.
As adults, I think this same lesson can apply. By the time many couples make it to my couch they have stopped talking to each other. Instead they are yelling, belittling, arguing, being passive-aggressive, or giving the silent-treatment. While these are all forms of communication, they are not effective. What they most likely build, instead of understanding and connection is resentment, anger, and disconnection from each other.
So the next time you feel your emotions rise with your partner, try to remind yourself to use your words instead.