By Dr. Sweta Venkataramanan
Communication in a relationship is essential. It can make or break the relationship, and yet, we’ve all been guilty of engaging in negative communication behaviors. Who can say they’ve never raised their voice at a partner? Or refused to speak at all when they’re feeling frustrated? Disagreements will happen no matter what – but communication does not always have to break down. Continue reading for five ways to improve communication in your relationships.
- Realize your significant other is not a psychic
Unless your partner is a mind reader, there’s a good chance he or she does not know your innermost thoughts. It may feel as if you’re being quite clear about how you feel, but if you aren’t saying it out loud, your partner likely does not understand why you’re upset. Use direct language to make it clear what’s bothering you.
- Talk things out – in person
Often times when there’s an argument, you may take time apart to gather your thoughts. When that happens, meet in person to talk things out. If you text instead, miscommunication is highly likely. A text means your partner won’t understand your tone or your body language. Research indicates that anywhere from anywhere form 55-85% of communication is nonverbal, and only 7% of communication is the actual words being spoken. A text will not convey the meaning behind your words – especially in a fight. Meet in person and talk things out.
- Use Active listening
Active listening involves maintaining eye contact, paying attention, and sometimes repeating back what you’ve heard to make sure you’re both on the same page. While engaging in active listening, you acknowledge that you’re listening to what your partner is saying, and that you understand what is being said. If you understand what is being said, simply saying “I understand” can greatly increase communication. If you don’t, ask for clarification e.g. “Help me understand”.
- Use “I” statements
Using “I” statements to describe your feelings means your partner will be more open to hearing your thoughts. Using “you” statements (.e.g. “You are being so stubborn”) often puts people on the defense and feel as if they’re being attacked. The same sentiment, when using an “I” statement (e.g. “I feel like I’m not being heard”), becomes reflective of your own experience.
- Focus on NOW.
If grudges from past arguments are still on your mind, it’s clouding your ability to focus on the present. Rather than bringing up old issues, focus on now. Think about what you can do to solve the present problem. Be mindful of what’s going on between you and your partner in the here and now.
For additional support in improving communications with your partner, we’re here. Contact us today for individual or couples therapy. If our clinicians are not the right fit for you, we can help refer you to someone that will be.