Effective communication in relationships is key to its success. It builds intimacy and satisfaction, helps avoid misunderstandings, and creates bridges.
Do you have difficulty opening up and communicating in your relationship? If you do, you´re not alone. Many women face the same frustration—they feel unheard, misinterpreted, and unable to say what they really mean. And yet to some, they find themselves trapped in an unending cycle of arguments.
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Good communication is the foundation of successful relationships. It´s about being able to express your thoughts and feelings to your mate, becoming a better talker and an even better listener, and finding effective resolves to inevitable fallouts.
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Are you looking for ways to improve your communication skills specifically for a successful and satisfying relationship? Here are ten tips to help you apply effective communication in relationships.
1. Understand the origin of your communication style.
When I was in my early twenties, I had a failed first date which was caused by the way I communicated with the guy. During that time I was not comfortable in my skin and I tried to mask it off with being outright outspoken. But then I came off as nagger + complainer to the guy.
My mom likes to nag. It´s her way of communicating and I picked it up. I hated my mom´s nagging and my parents ´endless cycle of arguments, but I’ve always feared that I´ll be like them. So I made a conscious decision to unpick their communication style which was ingrained in me. Living abroad and away from them allowed me to shape new + better habits.
Understanding the origin of your individual style is the first step in improving your communication skills. Realizing what mom and dad taught you and the family dynamics that you had growing up can help you make a deliberate attempt to do the opposite.
2. Develop a communication style that´s unique to your current relationship.
If this is your first long-term relationship, then you don´t have to worry about this tip. However, if this isn´t your first, then it´s very likely that you´ve picked up some negative messages or habits from your previous relationships that are affecting your current relationship.
When a relationship ends and you go to a new relationship, you can start all over. Unfortunately, you approach the new relationship with some of the messages from your past relationships. For example, expecting that your new partner will talk or listen like your ex did, or expecting your current partner to have the same language of love as your ex`s.
Recognizing the power of your previous relationships and how they affect your current relationship is essential in helping you identify those negative messages that may affect your now.
It´s important for you and your mate to develop a communication style that´s unique for your relationship, without being affected by the past. See where you both are coming from, talk about your differences, gain more insight into each other´s perspective, and agree for new rules of communication.
3. Leave baggage behind.
The communication style that you picked up from your parents are often reinforced in your early relationships. And then, as you experience breakdown of long-term relationships and you approach a new relationship, the negative messages and habits from your past relationships are often reinforced in your new relationship.
That is why it´s important that you leave those baggage behind. Of course, it`s easier said than done, but being aware of it is the first step.
Whatever negative messages you may have received about yourself or others, or whatever communication style you had in the past, it´s never too late to change or discover new, positive ways to communicate together.
4. Shed out unhealthy communication blocks.
Are you aware of the techniques you use to block conversation when you´re tired, not in the mood, uncomfortable or looking for a way to avoid arguments? You use communication blocks to stop a conversation dead on its track or to change direction. Below are some examples:
- Advising. Rather than listening to the full story or showing empathy, you offer solution right away so you can go on with your evening.
- Assuming. Rather than allowing your partner to explain, you assume that you know what he thinks or feels.
- Belittling. Using body language such as rolling your eyes, tuttling or looking smug.
- Changing the subject.
- Generalizing. You avoid getting into the details, instead you point out that this is a common issue on many people.
- I don´t know. Pleading ignorance is common among teenagers. It means “I don´t have anything to say.”
- Minimizing. You play the problem down by saying “It´s not that bad.”
- Interrupting, Monologues, Replaying the past, and Silence.
Although they are natural, they´re also unhealthy because they sabotage the conversation and trigger more issues in your relationship. If you don´t want to talk, then explain it nicely to your partner and ask for a rain check.
5. Create the right environment.
A right environment for communication makes talking easy and listening even easier. It involves both the physical surrounding and the atmosphere between the two of you. You can´t communicate effectively if the TV is loud, when there are guests in your house, or when the kids are distracting.
It´s crucial that you can be physically comfortable and away from distractions. But more than these, you also have to check your internal environment—your timing, your motivation, and your objectives.
6. Choose your timing wisely.
Have you ever experienced having a heated argument with your partner that sprang out of nowhere? Most likely than not, it´s caused by wrong timing. Tiredness, stress and anxiety, celebration, hormones, or lack of time are common are external factors to consider if you are to discuss sensitive matters with your partner.
7. Check your motivation.
Why do you want to have this conversation? Ask yourself these honest questions:
- What else is going on for me right now that may be influencing why I want to talk about this?
- Am I willing to listen, think and change my mind? Am I open to having a two-way conversation and seeing things in new perspective?
- Am I feeling emotional about something else or someone else? Has my feeling totally got to do with my partner or has someone or something has triggered it? (For example, you feel more sensitive to criticisms because of something at work.)
- Am I taking any baggage with me?
- Is this conversation the one I really want to have or am I hoping that this leads to something else? (For example, opening a conversation about something which you hope will lead to topic of wedding and proposal.)
- Do I have an end result ready in my mind or am I open to any outcome?
- Am I willing to own my thoughts and my feelings and share them in a non-blaming way?
- Am I just spoiling a fight?
Be completely honest to yourself about your thoughts and feelings, both good and bad, in order to ensure a good conversation with your partner.
8. Agree on your conversation objective together.
Although it may sound robotic or unspontaneous, it´s actually wise that you and your partner are clear and both agree on the objectives of this conversation. Although this isn´t needed to normal, casual chats, this is helpful to conversations on sensitive topics. Your objective/s will help you both stay on track during your discussion.
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Some examples of these positive outcomes are: to resolve issues, to understand each other better, to discuss ways to improve a situation, or to make a complaint or share your feelings.
9. Say what you mean.
This is a common issue to many women. We tend to say one thing and yet mean another thing. We want our partner to guess our mind, which frustrates us because often, he´s unable to read our mind. Men are simply wired differently.
You must learnt to say exactly what you mean. If you want your partner to really understand you, you have to be completely real and honest about who you are, what you think and feel.
10. Mean what you say.
Other people may apply a different meaning to the one you intend to say.
I remember back in my university days, a close friend of mine cracked a joke in one of our batch meetings. But she wasn´t sure if her joke was well-received, so as we were going home along with our other close friends, she asked me casually if her joke was fine. I told her that it was awkward, kind of embarrassing—which I actually meant as a joke.
As I was talking with our other friends, I noticed her slowing her pace, looking on the ground and appearing sad. So I walked back to her and asked what´s the problem. She felt bad that she embarrassed herself in the meeting.
I was stunned. I told her it was a joke. That it wasn´t true and that her joke was actually funny. But she didn´t realize that it was a joke because I looked serious when I said it.
You see, meaning what you say is trickier than it may sound. It´s easy to get misinterpreted by other people, even by your mate. Here´s how you can clarify your message:
- Think about your choice of language. If you´re not sure if your partner attaches the same meaning to a word as you do, add some more words for clarification.
- Ensure that your body language matches what you´re saying. If it´s to express sympathy, look sympathetic. If you´re open for discussion or feedback, keep your body posture open and receptive. If you´re angry or trying to make a point, adopt a posture or expression that show you´re serious.
- Express emotions as well as saying it words. For example, it´s nice to show in your actions that you love him, but it´s as nice if you also express your love in words.
Effective communication is the backbone of any successful relationship. Not only does it ease day to day living (especially for married couples), it also allows you to overcome differences and deepen intimacy.