In relationships we communicate every day, but do we really communicate? While at a basic level, we can be good at communicating, conveying information, and understanding, there is a difference between communicating effectively and ineffectively.
In a marriage or romantic relationship, effective communication is one of the most important keys to happiness and success. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to communicate like a winner, especially with those closest to us.
Fortunately, communication is a skill and one that you can improve dramatically. All you need is a willingness to learn and grow, an open mind, and a willingness to examine your own communication patterns and bad habits.
Why is communication so important in relationships?
First, let’s stop and consider why relationship communication is so important.
As humans, communication is vital to our survival. At the most basic level, communication allows us to warn others when there is danger or to share essential information such as which berries are safe to eat. But in marriage, the most intimate relationship of your life, your interactions go beyond the basics. There is a lot of communication about it.
Good communication sets the tone for your entire relationship. Poor communication (or the complete lack of it) is a recipe for unmet needs, unspoken concerns, and unhappy partners. Most conflicts in a relationship are rooted in poor communication. After all, most conflicts arise from initial misunderstandings. In other words, something was communicated poorly.
Positive communication skills help you avoid unnecessary conflict because you are communicating your feelings, needs, and perspective before a problem arises. Good communication means that you are able to express what you want and need from your partner without sounding defensive, accusatory, or anxious.
Some couples have good communication skills, but these often break down when the couple finds themselves in conflict situations. For these couples, it is helpful to learn how to fight fairly and express your thoughts and feelings in healthy, non-confrontational ways.
Ready to learn more about healthy communication? Let’s look at 5 essential communication skills.
LEARN WHAT IT MEANS TO TRULY LISTEN
In the best-selling self-help book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey says: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; They listen with the intent to respond.”
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This is a very true statement. I know because I am guilty of this exact habit myself. Listening doesn’t come naturally to some of us, but listening to your loved ones is vital to understanding them. This is one of the characteristics of great communication, and you can learn to be a better listener!
What does it mean to really listen to someone? Listening helps us to hear the words being spoken, but listening deeply can give us clues about the way a partner is speaking. (Paying attention to body language and non-verbal cues is also part of listening to your partner).
The best way to improve your listening skills is through practice. Listening requires patience and an open mind. You will need to practice these skills over a long period of time before they become a regular habit. Check out these couples’ communication exercises for some practical ideas.
Concept of love and friendship. Happy couple talking and smiling outside.
Here are some ways to develop your listening skills:
think before you answer
Pausing before responding to your partner in conversation can be life-changing. Not only does this allow you to soberly evaluate what you’re about to say, but this extra moment also gives you a chance to reflect more deeply on what your partner has said. What is the meaning of his words? What is his body language telling you?
repeat your partner’s words
Knowing that we are being heard can feel like an act of love. Your partner will appreciate the signs that you are listening carefully and attentively to what they are communicating to you. Try repeating what they are saying to you. Not exactly to parrot, but to repeat so that you fully understand their intent. You can even reword their statements slightly differently if that helps you sort things out. Maintain eye contact for a deeper level of connection.
Ask your partner to clarify anything that is not clear to you
Does everything your partner says make no sense? Or maybe what they said hurt your feelings or upset you? Healthy communicators know that asking for more information is important. If you’re not sure what that means, ask! It’s a simple tip, but it really makes a difference in clearing up misunderstandings and getting on the same page.
CHECK YOUR ASSUMPTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS
A significant problem in relationships can be unfulfilled or unstated expectations. We all bring expectations into our relationships. These vary greatly from things like how happy we expect our marriage to be to the way we believe our partner should celebrate our birthdays. Expectations are everywhere and you don’t even know you have them.
To understand them, you have to work a little on yourself. Examine your expectations for your relationship, your partner, and even yourself. Is it possible that this is having a negative effect on your relationship? Not sure how to find out what expectations or assumptions you’re holding on to? A good example might be the last thing you and your partner had a fight about.
My husband and I recently had an argument after I mentioned some of the daily stresses and problems I was dealing with. He withdrew and (to me) had an angry attitude. Instead of his usual comfort and affection, he didn’t say much. Then I got upset. Why wasn’t he holding me and giving me words of support? Why did I think he didn’t listen to me?
What happened here? On Nathan’s part, he was disappointed for a few reasons. First of all, the stressful issues I was raising were ones she had heard me say many times before. He had run out of useful things to say in his mind. And he was probably a little tired of hearing about the same issue. He felt weak and like he couldn’t be of help. He also felt distressed by his inability to comfort me, which was reflected in his negative feelings.
After some discussion, it became clear to me that Nathan expected himself to always offer solutions to my problems. Since he had lost his good advice on several previous occasions, he was not living up to this expectation.
But the conversation turned to my expectations, which I held but did not express. For me, when I have a problem or feel pain, I don’t always seek solutions or ideas. Actually, most of the time, all I want is pure comfort and love. I want him to just be there for me, give me space to feel my feelings, but also be there for me physically and mentally. I want her to be a listener I love and trust, allowing me to be vulnerable and share that with her. He doesn’t need to say more than “Wow baby, that barked” “I’m sorry” or “I’m here for you”.
Once we understood our expectations, we immediately understood the reason for the fight, and it also revealed something about our past disagreements.
Recognizing these is the first step to better communication for couples, but the second is applying them in conversation and interaction.
In managing our own struggles, my husband and I have realized that sometimes we need to let the other person know what we need. It boils down to openness and honesty and being willing to share without fear. Because it not only avoids miscommunication, it ensures that we get exactly what we need. In the end, both of us are happy. Ideally, each partner’s needs are met, and we both feel safe and satisfied knowing that we were able to give our partner what they needed from us. As you might expect, this leads to a deeper intimacy overall.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE WORDS YOU USE
Healthy communication has a lot to do with the words expressed. After all, you’ve probably experienced firsthand how just one hurtful word can turn into a huge conflict situation.
The words we use matter a lot, be they positive feelings or negative ones. Words of encouragement build us up, while words of unhappiness tear us down.
But as people, it’s so easy to let our mouths run away with us. Being angry and defensive is very common. But in order to be our most effective communicators and build our happiest relationships, we need to make it our goal to change the words we use.
Here are some tips to help you better control your words in your relationship:
Avoid using “you” statements.
This is one of the top tips for better communication in relationships. (I’m sure any life coach or therapist would agree!)
When we communicate our feelings with our partner, it is better to use as few “I” statements as possible. Example: “I felt that way when this happened” or “I felt sad when you did that”. While you probably can’t avoid using the word “you” in conversation with your partner, the point is to emphasize I statements. It shows that you are taking ownership of your own thoughts and feelings, and it communicates your perspective in a way that doesn’t place blame on the other person. It also reinforces the fact that your feelings are your own, not just your partner’s responsibility.
Avoid using words like “always” or “never”.
When we’re in the heat of an argument, it’s easy to say things we’ll regret later. But sweeping statements are almost always a bad idea.
Have you ever found yourself in a fight with your partner where you said things like “You always say that” or “You’re never there for me?” It may feel good to let these things out at this time because they are the result of frustrations built up within us. Yet these statements are not the best way we feel. And more importantly, they are rarely well-received by our compatriots. When someone talks to us like this, it’s normal to take it as deep criticism and immediately react with defensiveness. Thus, tension and energy build-up, and – most likely – the conflict escalates.
Instead of making big statements, try to keep the matter in hand. Bringing up past grievances in the present only stirs up high emotions and undermines your ability to solve the real problem. So whenever possible, use language that will help move the two of you closer to a resolution. And don’t be discouraged if you forget. Remember that building your relationship skills is a process.
PS: Holding grudges or always bringing up the past is not one of the habits of happy couples, and it’s certainly not one of the basics of fair fighting in a relationship.
MAKE TIME FOR FOCUSED COMMUNICATION
In relationships, communication is something that needs to be a priority, and that means you often need to make time for it. Even when—or maybe especially when—you don’t feel like it.
Solid communication should happen as often as possible, but it can happen in many different ways. You and your partner may need to have a conversation about how to ensure that communication in your relationship remains top of mind for both of you.
An easy way is to find time for regular conversations together. Note that this should be a conversation where you both give your full attention and focus to the other person and have the opportunity to practice listening. This exchange is a great way to respect your partner and learn more about their thoughts, ideas, goals, and who they are as a person. Your conversation can be in the form of sitting together in bed in the morning or some long conversation in the evening. It depends on both of you.
Making time for this type of communication can also mean choosing the right time to bring up what you need to talk about. This is one area of the marriage that I really need help with. I shoot whatever pops into my head, even if my timing isn’t the best. You know, like making big life decisions in the middle of a relaxing board game. Unfortunately, this has created some difficulties for us, but we have been able to turn them into opportunities to deepen our skills and rethink our strategies.
Romantic couple looking into each other’s eyes at a bar
Some couples prefer to schedule a weekly or monthly marriage meeting as a way to take time to connect about these more important issues. In my opinion, this is a wonderful idea, as it provides a dedicated time in which to talk about the connection of all things. Each partner can share whatever is on their mind and together, both of you can take steps to improve on any areas that need improvement.
Even knowing that your relationship meeting is scheduled can be positive for some individuals. A moment set aside to share worries and problems can bring relief to an anxious mind. Be sensitive to each other and discuss everything from sex to work to family plans and relationship goals. Believe it or not, marriage testing can also be a tool for stress management. Not convinced? Give it a try and see if it affects your well-being. I think you’ll find that it does!
EXPRESS APPRECIATION FOR YOUR PARTNER
One of the best communication tips we’ve ever found is to always show gratitude and love for your partner. Obviously, you might not feel like doing this in the heat of an argument, but if it’s something you’re practicing regularly, it has a compounding effect. On some level, your partner will feel that appreciation even in the midst of conflict.
When you’re trying to connect with your partner, it may be wise to start with expressions of care and appreciation. Why not hold their hand and tell them about their importance in your life?
Gratitude can be expressed in small ways every day. Practice showing your love to your partner in small gestures, like a quick pat on the back or a meaningful kiss on the way to work. Learn your partner’s love language and discover the ways they best experience love. It varies from person to person and learning your partner’s love language can be a complete game changer in a relationship.
keep at it
Communication is not something you will become an expert in overnight. The truth is, it’s a skill you’ll have to hone over years. But the positive impact it will have on your relationship is nothing short of phenomenal.
While we are not experts in relationship communication, we are constantly working on it in our marriage, and plan to share what we are learning. We hope you’ll stick with us as we embark on this adventure together!
I am Seema Rai working in blog industry since 4 years and I am expert in writing articles and I am such an expert and I work for publishing articles in many websites and news websites