When learning how to communicate in a relationship , it’s important to break the pattern of hostility, hurt and retreat. For example, when you catch yourself raising your voice or being sarcastic, change your tone. If you’re using “you” repeatedly and blaming your partner, switch to “I” and “me,” or better yet, “we.” There’s no point in offloading all your relationship’s issues on to your partner. There are two people in every relationship, so don’t shift the blame to be entirely on their shoulders.
How to communicate in a relationship
Connection: We all crave it. We seek it through family and friends, but often our intimate relationships are where we expect to find the most connection. When we don’t, we feel isolated and misunderstood. We let these negative emotions lead to arguments – or worse, we stop communicating at all.
Communication in relationships is essential to having a happy, healthy partnership. And it isn’t about making small talk. Asking your partner how their day went is nice, but if you want an extraordinary relationship , you must dig deeper. Learning how to communicate in a relationship is about fulfilling your partner’s needs. To improve communication in your relationship, you must discover how to listen, not how to talk.
Why is communication in relationships important?
Communication in relationships is essential to having a happy, healthy partnership. Your partner is likely the person you spend the most time with, which means there’s a greater risk of misunderstandings and conflict. But when you perfect communication in relationships , you’ll be rewarded.
✓ Increased trust
Real communication in relationships means that you can go to your partner about anything: sharing happiness and sadness, good days and bad. You’re willing to be vulnerable with them because you know that they will support you and love you no matter what. Absolute courage and vulnerability is one of the Five Disciplines of Love because it leads to total trust in your relationship.
We all know couples who seem to fight all the time – and those who seem to never fight at all. While all relationships have ups and downs, both frequent fighting and no fighting at all are signs of a lack of communication in relationships . The key isn’t to never disagree with your partner. It’s to improve your conflict resolution skills by using the eight tips above so that when disagreements do happen, you’re able to turn them into something that strengthens your relationship instead of tearing it down.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Communication is not just about talking about each other’s days and saying what you had to eat for lunch. It’s about being able to dig deep and get to know this person as well as you can. It’s not always easy to dig deep, especially for those who have never been comfortable talking about their feelings. And it’s not necessary to make every conversation a heart to heart.
There are ways to do this without pressuring your S.O. to spill their deepest secrets. For example, i nstead of asking yes or no questions like “Did you have a good day?” try asking more open-ended questions like, “How was your day?” Yes, they may respond with a brief non-answer (“good”, “fine”, “the same”), but asking open-ended questions gives them an opportunity to share more if they choose to. Keep in mind that not everyone opens up very easily. Be patient with your partner if they are not sharing all the time. We set boundaries around our emotions and everyone’s boundaries are different. So, be mindful and respectful of their emotional boundaries, and they should be equally mindful and respectful of yours.
Ultimately, the more you get to know your S.O. on a deeper level, the more open and honest you may be with each other. And honesty breeds trust, which are two very important pillars of a healthy relationship (hint: communication is another super important pillar!).
Learn How to Tell the Difference Between Thoughts and Feelings
Most of us don’t receive any education in identifying our feelings when we’re growing up. This is unfortunate, because emotional literacy (being able to accurately label your feelings) is a crucial relationship skill.
Confusing thoughts with feelings is a common source of communication problems in relationships (and it’s also associated with depression in adults). In relationships, the confusion between thoughts and feelings inevitably leads to frustrating attempts to talk about problems.
For example, let’s say you’ve been worried that your partner is losing interest in you and doesn’t seem to care about you in the same way they did in the past, which leads you to say, “I feel like you don’t care about me anymore.”
While It can seem like you’ve just shared your feelings, what you’ve actually expressed is an interpretation of your partner’s feelings.
When you’re on the receiving end of this sort of statement, it sounds like an attack. The “you don’t care about me” is heard way more loudly than “I feel like.” It’s likely that your partner would jump in to defend themselves and point to actions that disprove your statement . . . something like “That’s not true! Look at all the things I do for you!”
Because their response shifts the conversation from your original feeling to them justifying all the good things they do for you, it’s likely you’ll feel dismissed and unheard. Cue the very familiar unproductive argument that goes nowhere.
On the other hand, being able to verbalize your feelings by saying “I’ve been feeling disconnected from you lately and I’ve noticed myself worrying that you don’t care about me anymore” keeps your feelings of disconnection and worry at the center of the conversation and is more like to lead to a productive conversation.
One way to get better at separating thoughts from feelings is to perform this simple test: Feelings can usually be summed up in one or two words (heartbroken, happy, confused, etc.) while thoughts disguised as feelings often start with “I feel like . . . ” If you remove the “I feel like” you would still have a complete sentence, “You don’t care about me anymore.” When you remove the “I feel like” at the beginning of the sentence, it’s easier to see that the statement will probably sound like an attack on the other person.
Skill: Keep stress in check
How many times have you felt stressed during a disagreement with your spouse, kids, boss, friends, or coworkers and then said or done something you later regretted? If you can quickly relieve stress and return to a calm state, you’ll not only avoid such regrets, but in many cases you’ll also help to calm the other person as well. It’s only when you’re in a calm, relaxed state that you’ll be able to know whether the situation requires a response, or whether the other person’s signals indicate it would be better to remain silent.
In situations such as a job interview, business presentation, high-pressure meeting, or introduction to a loved one’s family, for example, it’s important to manage your emotions, think on your feet, and effectively communicate under pressure.
|Communicate effectively by staying calm under pressure|
|Use stalling tactics to give yourself time to think. Ask for a question to be repeated or for clarification of a statement before you respond.|
|Pause to collect your thoughts. Silence isn’t necessarily a bad thing—pausing can make you seem more in control than rushing your response.|
|Make one point and provide an example or supporting piece of information. If your response is too long or you waffle about a number of points, you risk losing the listener’s interest. Follow one point with an example and then gauge the listener’s reaction to tell if you should make a second point.|
|Deliver your words clearly. In many cases, how you say something can be as important as what you say. Speak clearly, maintain an even tone, and make eye contact. Keep your body language relaxed and open.|
|Wrap up with a summary and then stop. Summarize your response and then stop talking, even if it leaves a silence in the room. You don’t have to fill the silence by continuing to talk.|
Quick stress relief for effective communication
When a conversation starts to get heated, you need something quick and immediate to bring down the emotional intensity. By learning to quickly reduce stress in the moment, you can safely take stock of any strong emotions you’re experiencing, regulate your feelings, and behave appropriately.
Recognize when you’re becoming stressed. Your body will let you know if you’re stressed as you communicate. Are your muscles or stomach tight? Are your hands clenched? Is your breath shallow? Are you “forgetting” to breathe?
Bring your senses to the rescue. The best way to rapidly and reliably relieve stress is through the senses—sight, sound, touch, taste, smell—or movement. For example, you could pop a peppermint in your mouth, squeeze a stress ball in your pocket, take a few deep breaths, clench and relax your muscles, or simply recall a soothing, sensory-rich image. Each person responds differently to sensory input, so you need to find a coping mechanism that is soothing to you.
Look for humor in the situation. When used appropriately, humor is a great way to relieve stress when communicating. When you or those around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or an amusing story.
Be willing to compromise. Sometimes, if you can both bend a little, you’ll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone concerned. If you realize that the other person cares much more about an issue than you do, compromise may be easier for you and a good investment for the future of the relationship.
Agree to disagree, if necessary, and take time away from the situation so everyone can calm down. Go for a stroll outside if possible, or spend a few minutes meditating. Physical movement or finding a quiet place to regain your balance can quickly reduce stress.
Skill: Assert yourself
Direct, assertive expression makes for clear communication and can help boost your self-esteem and decision-making skills. Being assertive means expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in an open and honest way, while standing up for yourself and respecting others. It does NOT mean being hostile, aggressive, or demanding. Effective communication is always about understanding the other person, not about winning an argument or forcing your opinions on others.
|To improve your assertiveness:|
|Value yourself and your options. They are as important as anyone else’s.|
|Know your needs and wants. Learn to express them without infringing on the rights of others|
|Express negative thoughts in a positive way. It’s okay to be angry, but you must remain respectful as well.|
|Receive feedback positively. Accept compliments graciously, learn from your mistakes, ask for help when needed.|
|Learn to say “no.” Know your limits and don’t let others take advantage of you. Look for alternatives so everyone feels good about the outcome.|
Developing assertive communication techniques
Empathetic assertion conveys sensitivity to the other person. First, recognize the other person’s situation or feelings, then state your needs or opinion. “I know you’ve been very busy at work, but I want you to make time for us as well.”
Escalating assertion can be employed when your first attempts are not successful. You become increasingly firm as time progresses, which may include outlining consequences if your needs are not met. For example, “If you don’t abide by the contract, I’ll be forced to pursue legal action.”