Five great ways to improve relationship communication
If you have spent any time reading about relationships you may be of the opinion that the quality of the communication in the relationship, in some respects determines the happiness of the relationship. Yet many of us struggle with good communication in our relationships. We may want to improve, we may want to be better, yet we are not sure how to go about making the changes. Below are five specific ways in which you can help your relationship by changing the way you communicate.
1. Don’t assume and don’t mind read
The thing we do most in long term relationships is ‘knowing’ what the other person is thinking. The only thing you can know is how you feel and what you think. You may remember how your partner reacted last time, but listening to their reaction this time will get you much farther. Also don’t be surprised when you say “you don’t show me you love me anymore” hoping for a night cuddled up on the sofa and you get tea in bed the next morning. They have a different way of showing affection – be specific.
2. Use the three T’s
The manner in which you communicate with your partner over contentious issues is important. Remember the three T’s rule: timing, tone and text. Pick the right time, don’t choose the middle of your partner’s favourite TV program, they will be annoyed and distracted. Choose a soft and even tone. When you are angry and shout then the other person becomes defensive, compromising their ability to hear. It is equally important to choose words that will not inflame the situation. Direct, short and specific should be your approach.
3. Don’t speak
This seems unusual, yet if you are angry or the red mist has descended, then stop and take some time to calm down. This stops the situation getting worse. When you are ready, think about what thing is making you angry. Be clear about your feelings and thoughts. Now in a calm tone talk to you partner and explain how you feel. Listen to what they have to say. You may need to do this several times to work the problem out. Remember, take breaks if you get angry.
4. Learn to listen
Listening is more than hearing the words and decoding their meaning. It is putting them in the context of your partner’s experience. If you listen carefully to your partner you can explain to your partner what they just said. They would feel completely understood. This is harder than it sounds, we often want to jump in with our own comments. Regularly check out that you have understood your partner. E.g. “So if I have understood you…”
5. Be as open and honest as possible with your partner
We all understand the moral dimension of telling our partner lies and how we might be caught out... Pretending everything is okay when it isn’t destroys relationships from within because your partner cannot do anything to fix it. It means opening yourself up to the risk of being hurt, but it also opens you up to the full potential of the relationship.
Communication in relationships is not always straight forward, yet through practising good communication you can build a better, happier relationship.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.