If you’ve been in a relationship for a while, you’ve no doubt learned that effective communication with your partner isn’t something you master quickly or all at once. Relationships are complicated. Even the best ones have opportunities for misunderstanding and hurt feelings because you and your partner share life together and life is messy. Communication is an art.
I’ve written about couple’s communication elsewhere, but here are some ideas for improving the quality of your communication with your beloved:
- Think before you speak. What’s your intention in addressing a concern with your partner? What outcome do you want?
- Talk. Sounds pretty simple, but how you say something can speak more loudly than the words you use. Sarcasm, blame and criticism can take a conversation in a negative direction very quickly. So can the wrong tone of voice. If the conversation is likely to be difficult, consider making a soft start: “Is this a good time to talk?” or “Honey, there’s something we need to discuss.”
- Listen. Easy to forget this step! Listening is easier if you avoid distractions – having a conversation while watching TV, answering email or texting someone else. Give one another your undivided attention – particularly if you’re talking about something easily misunderstood or likely to push each other’s buttons.
- Respond. Communication is a two-way street, with who is talking and who is listening alternating. If the relationship has a pattern where one person’s speaking is met with defensiveness or silence by the other, the relationship is in trouble.
Finally, be mindful that communication in itself may not be complete until action is taken. In successful relationships, each partner is influenced by the needs of the other.