Communication in a relationship
How to communicate effectively with your partner.
The ability to communicate well with your spouse, partner or lover plays an important role in laying the foundation for a healthy and prosperous relationship. However, most relationships suffer from a lack of conversation skills and breakdowns in communication, which can result in misunderstandings, problems and even divorce.
Here are a few tips that may help communicating with your partner:
Don’t let your mind get into the turmoil of the oncoming heated discussion directed your way. Staying focussed on the fact that if you participate, a discussion could quickly escalate. Not only do you have one person throwing words around but once you step in and add your contribution this will intensify the problem.
Listening carefully is a valuable asset in the true art of conversation. Listening involves more than just hearing spoken words. It entails close, active, and apt attention toward the speaker and what is being said, enabling you to make informed, calm decisions.
Stay open minded
Put yourself in your partner's shoes. Listen carefully while your partner is talking. Maintain eye contact, nod when appropriate and ask questions when you are confused. Try to understand accurately what your partner is saying, then repeat what you think your partner said. For example, "It sounds like...", "So what you're saying is...", "If I heard you right...".
Respond to criticism with empathy
First of all, let go of your need to be right or perfect. Try to ascertain what is beneath the verbal attack, criticism or whatever the issue they are discussing. Reading between the lines will better prepare you for dealing with the criticism and for the way in which you respond.
Assume personal responsibility
- Have I done all I can do to resolve this conflict?
- Have I looked for solutions?
- Am I willing to compromise?
- To forgive?
- To let it go?
- If the conflict can't be resolved, am I willing to live with it or walk away?
Usually when people argue, accusations and blame fly around, which turns out to be detrimental to reaching a resolution. The purpose of "I" messages is to take the focus off the other person and focus on how it made you feel. For example, instead of blaming the other person by saying "You betrayed me," a more constructive way is to say "I feel betrayed."
Look for compromise
Instead of trying to ‘win’ the argument, here are two ways to compromise:
1) Find the middle ground. Take the “average” between your differences and meet each other halfway.
2) Alternatively, you compromise this time, your partner compromises next time.
If you do choose the second option, remember that it should be balanced, with both parties making the same amount of compromises over time. If one party constantly gives in, there’ll be a power imbalance, which will lead to a loss of romantic respect and eventually a loss of attraction.
Take a time-out:
As childish as this might seem on the surface, it works. A time-out can help provide enough of a window to decrease the physiological reaction that often comes with high levels of anger (think "fight or flight"). Both parties can calm down to think rationally and clearly.
Don’t give up: don’t grow weary.
Re-adjust your expectations: maybe today, you “can’t do this anymore”, so regroup. Take a deep breath, face the issue again and remember that it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your relationship because you’re arguing about the same thing for the 5th time.
Ask for help If you need it:
If one or both of you has trouble staying respectful during conflict, or if you’ve tried resolving conflict with your partner on your own and the situation just doesn’t seem to be improving, you might benefit from a few sessions with a therapist. Couples counselling or family therapy can provide help with altercations and teach skills to resolve future conflict. If your partner doesn’t want to go, you can still often benefit from going alone.
If you feel you need to talk, you can use our search function to find a registered counsellor near you.
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