Communication in relationships is key to being able to get on and help resolve conflict. Most couples manage effective communication without much effort. However, those who are poor in communication are often unhappy and stuck. It puts a strain on the relationship and leads to conflict.
Poor communication results in partners giving mixed messages to each other and often using personal words that put their partner down. They can give hidden messages through their tone of their voice and say non-supportive comments. They fail to see each other’s world and are unable to problem solve.
So what is good communication?
Communicating in a relationship is to clearly say what you mean. You need to demonstrate that you are actively listening and showing empathy. In other words you need to show your partner that you understand what they are saying and that you are understanding their feelings.
How do you go about improving communication?
The following steps are ways of improving communication:
- Stop and listen to each other. A common mistake is when there is poor communication is that couples do not hear each other. They are focused on what they are going to say in response, they stop listening. When your partner is talking, listen to what they have to say.
- Be open and honest. Saying you are fine, when you are hiding deep hurt or resentment does not help communication. Hiding your emotions or giving your partner the silent treatment is not letting your partner know how you feel. You need to open up to help improve the communication between you.
- Be brief and to the point in what you want to say. If you launch into a list of problems, your partner will forget the first point and more likely respond to the point that will be controversial or knows it will cause a reaction.
- Be positive and show empathy to each other. Put yourself into your partner’s shoes and try to understand their feelings. Reflecting their feelings is a good way to show empathy. Do not mind read! Listen to what your partner is saying about their feelings rather than interpreting them.
- Always end on a positive. If you need to say something negative wrap it around something positive so to avoid an unpleasant ending. If you end with a negative it may lead to an argument.
- If you don’t like something your partner does, try to think of a suggestion of how it could be done differently
- Stop bringing the past into the conversation. Concentrate on the ‘here and now’ and the future.
- Stick to the subject. Do not drift into other areas. Arguments between partners can lead to everything being brought into the discussion. Keep to the matter in hand to what you are discussing, rather than bringing in all the problems. Arguments that veer of subject, tend to grow larger arguments with often no resolution.
- Speak as ‘I’ rather than saying ‘you and launching into critical comments’. In a relationship, it is easy to start a conversation with saying ‘you’. For example, ‘you make me feel angry’. That is blaming. It is better to say ‘I am feeling upset and it is over something you have done’. This enables your partner to respond to the idea rather an than retaliate and get angry themselves in return.
- Do not try to win the battle. If couples try to end the argument or become concerned with winning it ends up with one partner feeling defeated or misunderstood. It is better to agree to have the discussion at another time when you or agree that you will not agree but will respect each other’s opinion. You need to be flexible and to keep the relationship and communication open.
Remember change comes from within
A common trait that occurs in a relationship is that both persons see themselves as the victim and think that there partner is being unreasonable. With this mind-set, it means that conflict continues and never resolves itself. Couples need to accept that there are two ways of seeing a problem, and try to step back and see that the other person is right in their way of thinking. Therefore the only thing you can change is yourself. Giving your partner good advice, teaching or talking is not an effective way of bringing change in your partner. You need to change yourself and behave differently. This will help your partner see the change and think about changing themselves.
What is your experience of communication in relationships? Do you use any of the above steps to help your relationship?
The next blog post will look at ways you can self-help improve your communication in your relationship.