Whether you’re in a brand-new relationship or part of a tenured couple there is always room for improved communication. Poor communication can be marked by frequent verbal altercations, reoccurring statements such as “you don’t understand”, or the tendency to limit communication with your partner just to avoid conflict. There is hope for your relationship and how you communicate with your partner is the cornerstone of heathy connection. The purpose of this article is to support improved communication within relationships which in turn will prompt growth within the family unit.
Although I would describe myself as an “Effective Communicator” there are still numerous examples of when my communication has diminished or stunted genuine connection with my wife. I say this to identify an important aspect of working on improving communication, understanding that we are “Works in progress”. No individual within a relationship communicates perfectly 100% of the time, and if you think that your partner is the whole problem then you may be a bigger part of the issue than you realize. The beautiful part of effective communication is that it takes two people and when done correctly can stimulate increased intimacy, passion, and connection. Owning the fact that this article is not only for your partner but for you as well will set the stage for growth.
The first tool that you can use to improve communication is active listening. It has been remarkable to observe that although most have an understanding of active listening, it appears that many reserve this skill for interviews and professional endeavors. There is no doubt that active listening is great in a professional setting however it is absent in many modern relationships. The start of effective communication is letting your partner know that you are listening. This is communicated through a mixture of nonverbal (body language) and verbal ques. Body language that shows your listening can include; eye contact, orienting the body towards the other person, slight nods of the head, facial expressions, and open body posturing. Coupling effective body language with statements that let the other know you “hear them” leads us to the second tool that can change how you communicate, validation.
Validation is key to healthy and robust communication. It signals to your partner that you are in the moment with them and keenly listening. Think for a moment if there has ever been a situation like this in your relationship. You are sitting on the couch with your partner and they say, “did you hear what I just said”. You pause for a moment then say “No”, because in fact you didn’t hear your partner. Your mind was drifting and pondering some irrelevant fact. As humans we lose focus at times and our attention can waiver, but it is important to understand that this action signals to your partner that you are uninterested in them. This can make your partner feel undervalued and if done repeatedly can make your partner begin to question the partnership. Validation is hard because it takes work to be in the moment with your partner. If your partner is speaking to you there are several statements that can help show you are listening; I hear you…Tell me more… I don’t understand…That sounds difficult. These may be simple phrases but the impact it can have within your relationship is immense. Don’t expect your partner to label you as a master of communication after you tell them, “I hear you” one time. There must be persistent efforts to implement more validating communication to see results.
Lastly is my favorite tool to help you communicate better with your partner, be curious. In addition to showing our partners that we are listening with our body language and words we must maintain curiosity in our partners. There is no trick to showing that you are curious, you just need to ask questions. It is likely that when the relationship started you asked a lot of questions. “What is your favorite food? How many siblings do you have? What hobbies do you have? The questions continued to flow deep into 5th and 6th date. Then it reaches a point where you say, “I know this person” and you begin to feel comfortable. Don’t let the comfort snuff out the curiosity you have in your partner. As you become more comfortable allow yourself to ask bigger questions. Questions that ask about who your partner is and who they want to be? Showing genuine curiosity in your partner can lead to them also being more curious about you. Don’t let the only question In your relationship be, “What are we going to eat tonight”. Remain curious with your partner and use questions as a tool to become closer and more connected.
I’m hopeful for your relationship. Remember that developing effective communication with your partner is not completed in one day, rather it will require continuous effort. Make each day better than the last and take a positive step forward. Position yourself openly to your partner, validate that you hear them, and remain curious.