Communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship, and it’s especially crucial for couples. Being able to communicate effectively with your partner can help you both navigate challenges, resolve conflicts, and deepen your connection. In this blog, we’ll explore some tips for improving communication in your relationship.
1. Listen actively
One of the most important aspects of communication is active listening. This means truly hearing what your partner is saying and trying to understand their perspective. It can be tempting to jump in with your own thoughts or interrupt, but it’s important to give your partner the space to express themselves fully before responding.
Listening doesn’t mean silence. You can still be engaged in the conversation by nodding your head and mirroring what you’re hearing your partner say.
2. Be honest and open
Honesty is another key component of effective communication. It’s important to be open and transparent with your partner, even when it’s difficult. Avoiding difficult conversations or hiding things from your partner can erode trust and lead to resentment over time.
3. Use “I” statements
When expressing your feelings or needs, it’s helpful to use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. For example, saying “I feel hurt when you don’t listen to me” is more productive than saying “You never listen to me.” This helps you communicate your feelings without placing blame on your partner.
4. Avoid criticism and defensiveness
Criticism and defensiveness can quickly derail a conversation. Instead of attacking your partner or becoming defensive, try to approach conversations with a spirit of curiosity and openness. Ask questions to better understand your partner’s perspective, and try to stay calm and respectful even when discussing difficult topics.
When you feel yourself becoming defensive, remember you don’t have to agree with what your partner is saying in order to listen to their feelings. Hold space and let them talk about what’s on their mind.
5. Practice active problem-solving
Effective communication isn’t just about expressing yourself; it’s also about finding solutions to problems. When faced with a challenge, work with your partner to identify potential solutions and come up with a plan of action. This can help you both feel more empowered and connected.
John Gottman, a famous relationship researcher, found that 69% of all problems are not solvable. Keeping this in mind, active problem solving doesn’t mean that everyone gets their way. Nope! It’s full of compromises and holding space for each other when one, or both of us, can’t get our way.
When you just can’t agree, sometimes the next best thing is to simply voice to your partner that you understand how hard this is for them. Acknowledge your partner’s hurt, grief or other feelings. Sit in the discomfort with them.
6. Take breaks when needed
Finally, it’s important to recognize when a conversation isn’t productive and take a break if needed. If emotions are running high or you’re feeling overwhelmed, take some time to cool down before returning to the conversation. This can help prevent arguments from escalating and allow you to approach the conversation with a clearer head.
If, by chance you have an anxious attachment style, taking a time out might feel excruciating! When you feel disconnected, you might be tempted to push through to the finish line and so you can feel better. While it sounds harmless, this will only make it worse. Learning how to regulate your nervous system, by breathing or other strategies, can help you get through the angst of waiting. Soon, you’ll see the benefit of waiting.
Improving communication in your relationship takes practice and effort, but it’s well worth it. By actively listening, being honest and open, using “I” statements, avoiding criticism and defensiveness, practicing active problem-solving, and taking breaks when needed, you can build a stronger, more resilient relationship with your partner.
Learn these strategies and more with a marriage intensive designed to help you communicate your way to a better relationship.