Your handy guide to relationship communications
Good communication is at the heart of a healthy relationship. It’s the two way street that forms the backbone of the relationship. Yet maintaining good communication can be harder than it sounds. However there are some basic skills and approaches to help us.
Choose the right time to talk. Try to choose the right time to talk to your partner. Talking to someone who is focused on their favourite TV program or the children are running around or their stress about a big meeting in work tomorrow is almost doomed to failure. Choose a time and a place where you both have the time and feel safe to talk through the issue, even if that means making an appointment with each other. Talk about one issue at a time. Avoid the discussion expanding from the original problem to everything else. Choose another time to talk about extra issues.
When you are talking, do not attack your partner. Try to use statements that start with “I” or “we”. Say how things make you feel or what you think, avoiding at all costs telling them what they think or what they feel.
Be honest (including apologising when you make a mistake) because hiding your feelings, being dishonest or sulking only makes it harder for your partner to understand and is a barrier to effective communication. Being vulnerable and honest can be frightening and challenging but it offers the full potential of the relationship in a way not possible when you hide.
Listening is perhaps even more important in communication than talking. Face your partner and maintain eye contact. Show that you are listening by asking clarifying questions which helps you to make sure you have understood what they are saying. It can also be helpful to reflect back the feelings to show you heard and understood what was communicated. For example, “I hear you were upset, but when I said that…” However, don’t overuse these as they can seem mocking.
Tone forms a big part of our communication in conflict. Emails, texts and letters should be avoided for discussing problems. It is always better done face to face. Remember to try to keep an even and calm tone as an aggressive or parental tone is likely to produce a reaction in your partner.
Anger is always a dangerous place to be in communication. If you are angry you should stop and let the feeling subside. Then try to look at your options of what to say to your partner. Then talk to them and listen to what they have to say. Often a 10 minute break in an argument between couples is more productive and when you return the calmer frame of mind produces results.
Good communication in relationship is in part skills, part practice and part willingness to be vulnerable with your partner. It can be helpful to have relationship counselling to help with any part of these especially if you are finding it difficult.