How to Improve Communication in Your Relationship
Communication is essential to a healthy, happy relationship. Your partner is likely the person you are closest to and most vulnerable with, and communication is vital to maintaining that bond. When communication falters, or there is misunderstanding or conflict in the relationship, the emotional fallout can be severe. At the same time, putting some work into improving your communication skills can result in big rewards in the relationship.
Here are some tips to boost communication in your intimate relationship:
7 powerful ways to improve communication in your relationship
1. Pick your moment
If you need to talk about something important with your partner, don’t try to raise it when either of you is tired or overwhelmed. While the subject may feel urgent, it is difficult for people to be present and remain calm during a serious conversation when they already under stress. Wait for a time when you both have some emotional space and a calm environment before you jump into an important conversation. It can help to schedule a time to talk that works for both of you, rather than catching your partner unawares.
2. Stow your own baggage
Before you start the conversation with your partner, take the time to think about your own role and process your own emotions. If you try to open up communication when upset or angry, it will be hard to keep it from going off the rails. Think about what is behind your intense feelings and how you want to express yourself to your partner. Recognize when your feelings are connected to other experiences in your past and acknowledge that your partner cannot be held responsible for those feelings. It can be helpful to discuss your past with your partner, but try not to let it affect your relationship in the present.
3. Use “I” statements
The words we choose when talking to others make a big difference in how we communicate. Those words are especially important in a close relationship and when discussing sensitive topics. If you start out blaming your partner or use phrases like, “you always” and “you never”, they are likely to feel attacked and blamed. They may withdraw or become defensive. Instead, focus on describing how their actions make you feel. Use statements like, “I feel worried when you don’t call me.” This way, your partner is more likely to hear what you are saying, and less likely to get defensive or shut down the conversation.
4. Listen, listen, listen
People often go into a conversation knowing what they want to say. It is less common for people to prepare themselves to really hear the other person’s point of view. The art of communication within an intimate relationship involves each person listening to the other, not just as a way of sharing information, but as a way to truly know one another. Listening isn’t a favour you do for your partner, it is a vital part of the relationship.
Ask questions and get clarification if you’re not sure exactly what they are saying. Focus on what your partner is saying, not on what you are going to say next. Your partner should do the same for you.
5. Be Kind
The fastest way to shut down communication with someone is to be scornful, disrespectful or dismissive of their point of view. Make a commitment to yourself that you will enter into a conversation with your partner with kindness and an open mind, even if the topic is uncomfortable. You are trying to create more closeness in your relationship, and critical remarks will do the opposite. Healthy communication is not about scoring points or being the winner. It’s about understanding each other’s point of view.
6. Tolerate Negative Feelings
In an open, vulnerable conversation, your partner may say things that are hard to hear. If you immediately get defensive or try to invalidate their feelings, you will miss the chance for real intimacy. Accept your partner’s feelings, even if you don’t agree or find it painful to acknowledge them. Listen to them explain why they feel the way they do. Own up to making mistakes or having moments of poor judgement. Don’t distance yourself from your partner just because you don’t like everything they are saying.
7. Be Present
Many of us have the habit of shutting down or dissociating when we’re under stress or hear something we don’t like. However, if you’re committed to communicating with your partner, make every attempt to stay present throughout the conversation. If your attention starts wandering, bring yourself back to the moment and focus on what your partner is saying, as well as on their expression and body language. Your partner deserves your time and attention, and you deserve theirs.
Why Communicating Can Seem Hard
Some people have grown up in environments where healthy communication was never modelled for them. The skills for good communication may seem like a foreign language: awkward to use and hard to master. But this doesn’t have to be the case. With a bit of practice and commitment anyone can be a good communicator. If you are having trouble with communication in your relationship, a trained therapist can help.
At Tod Augusta Scott Family Therapy, we have experienced counsellors based in Halifax, NS who can offer individual, couples and family therapy. To book a therapy session, visit our book now page.
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute therapeutic advice.
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