Good communication in relationships is one of the hardest things to hack and one of the hardest things to realize we’re not actually all that great at. Effective communication is a skill that requires practice in order to resolve conflict and deepen our connection with our partner.
I put together a list of the top 10 communication skills that you can practice so that you can learn how to communicate more effectively in your relationship.
Sometimes arguments pop up out of nowhere. They can start from a small disagreement or honest mistake, and they can end with disconnection, resentment, anger, and pain.
Some arguments may seem like they never really end. Sometimes the battles between you and your partner are part of a greater war, and your wounds from each battle carry over into the next.
Many times, these battles and wars stem from core issues that couples struggle to recognize and communicate. Arguments may, at times, end with more pain because what we really feel and want becomes lost in translation in the midst of overwhelming emotion.
Disagreements are normal and can be healthy when we use them as an opportunity to deepen our understanding and empathy for each other. Conflicts are normal and can be healthy when we use them as an opportunity to grow and reconnect.
We need to work on the art of healthy communication in order to start resolving core issues and participate in more productive, and healing, conversation with our partners.
I created a list of 10 ways to have good communication in your relationships in order to help you resolve conflicts and reconnect with your partner.
10 Ways to Have Good Communication in Your Relationships
1- Create a safe communication environment
Agree to allow each other to be honest, making a safe space for vulnerability and authenticity. Lovers can promise each other that the feelings shared will not be shamed or made fun of—this is so important.
Of all the spaces in the world, the one between you and your partner should feel the safest.
2- Keep healthy communication boundaries
You are allowed to disagree with your partner, and they are allowed to disagree with you.
Your emotions are yours. Your partner’s emotions are theirs. Your emotions are not dependent on your partner’s emotions and vice versa.
You are responsible for your actions and your partner is for theirs.
Know both you and your partner’s boundaries and respect them. This will help you to be mindful of when it is time to take a step back and take your thoughts in a healthier direction.
My post, 4 Reasons Why Self-Love is Essential in a Healthy Relationship, will teach you more about self-respect and healthy boundaries to help you master effective communication in a relationship.
3- Have realistic communication expectations
Mistakes, disagreements, and conflicts are normal. Do not conclude that your relationship is failing because of your human qualities.
Sensitive issues are not easy to talk or hear about, but sometimes it’s necessary to have these hard conversations.
Don’t expect your partner to perfectly understand how you feel or what you are saying. Don’t expect your partner to see everything your way and bend over backwards to please you. Recognize that there are two sides to the story.
4- Focus on resolving issues, not on being right
Evaluate your goal. Do you want to win an argument? Or do you want to resolve the issue and reconnect with your partner?
If your motive comes from a good place, then things will likely end up in a good place.
John Gottman shares the antidote to feeling contemptuous: Nurturing your fondness and admiration for your partner. Gottman has four fondness and admiration-building exercises in his book that totally work.
5- Listen to understand, not to counter
When we are trying to “win,” we often don’t listen to our partner. Instead, we are thinking of what we are going to say next. On the other hand, we sometimes listen because we want to counter-attack our partner’s thoughts.
It may seem so obvious now but, in the moment, it’s much harder to recognize when we’re not really listening and are in our own thoughts.
When you listen to your partner you should try to understand the point they are trying to get across. You should ask them questions to clarify, repeat what you heard, and ask them if they feel you understand their message.
Don’t worry about what to say, just listen.
6- Express empathy, concern, respect, and validation
A soft approach can help couples more quickly reach conflict resolution. When partners express concern and empathy for each other, they can tackle their problems together, knowing that they have each other’s backs.
John Gottman’s famous Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (for relationships) are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. When these four horsemen are running rampant in a relationship, good communication is far less likely to occur.
Each of these horseman can keep us from communicating with our partner in an environment of love, empathy, and respect. It is important for couples to cultivate positive feelings toward each other in order to have authentic and effective communication in relationships.
7- Make best use of non-verbal communication
How often is it “not what they said, but how they said it” that hurts the most?
Be aware of what you’re communicating with your body and tone. Communicate warmth in your tone and touch. Turn toward them.
8- Identify underlying issues
When your conversation turns into an intense argument, stop, and ask yourselves, “What are the underlying feelings and real issues that got us arguing in the first place?”
More often than not, that one argument was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
It’s okay to take time for yourself to figure out the underlying reason for your feelings. In a healthy relationship, you can give each other space when either of you need to figure out what’s really going on.
If you recognize that you are spiraling and are unsure of the real reasons for the strong emotions you are feeling, it’s okay to take a step back and consider what your feelings, issues, values, and needs are.
One of my recent posts, 5 Steps to Stop Negative Thinking and Start Positive Thinking, gives you step by step instructions to help you rewrite your thoughts and find clarity. You can use this to help you and your partner identify your core issues and feelings to help you have more effective communication.
9- Be clear and to the point with your communication
Using your words to make your message clear and to the point is harder than it may seem.
Words must be used wisely in order to get what we really want. As silly as it sounds, try explaining your feelings to your partner like you would to a 10-year-old.
Use simple, clear language that gets your message across without getting lost in the translation of all the thoughts and emotions whirling around you.
Ironically, in an argument, we often hold back what’s important and talk about everything that isn’t, even though that’s not how it feels in the moment.
When we hold back the things we truly want to say for too long, we end up “blowing up” over small mistakes or disagreements that symbolize a core issue.
10- Remember you are a team
Remember whose team you are on. Is it “me vs. you,” or “us vs. the problem?”
It is easy to get caught up in your own experience and forget what you are fighting for: your relationship. Instead of protecting the relationship from damage by admitting weakness and confronting insecurities, we protect ourselves by blaming our partner and denying fault.
This can lead to emotional wounds, damage your relationship, and leave the real issue unresolved. The good news is you can repair these damages and heal those wounds by finding forgiveness together.
There are many more than only 10 ways to have good communication in relationships; however, I have personally experienced these effective communication skills change the way I approach a conflict with my husband.
The truth is, we all get hot-headed at times and struggle to understand our partner and clearly share what we are thinking and feeling. What’s important is that we never give up and continue to cultivate our communication skills.
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