What’s so hard about communication? We all know how to talk and listen, don’t we? Well, there’s communication and then there’s effective communication. Being a “good” communicator takes skill, but it’s worth the investment. So much of a healthy relationship depends on the ability to communicate in a loving way.
We hear so much about communication being essential for relationships, but not so much about why. Here are a few reasons why communication is so important:
The following are general tips to help you communicate better:
“It’s less about what you say and more about how you say it”. Positive language is informative, proactive, and helpful. Reword phrases that have negative words like “can’t”, “won’t”, “don’t”, “stop”, or “shouldn’t”.
Your body can say just as much as words can, if not more. Be mindful of what your body is conveying.
Use positive body language:
Intentional communication means being aware of your words and the effects they have on others. Avoid simply reacting to something your partner said or did. Instead, pause, and take time to think about what you want to say, how you want to say it. Also, try to anticipate how it will make your partner feel.
Notice your tone of voice. Think about whether something else is on your mind and affecting your communication with your partner. Is something that happened to you previously coming along into the interaction with your partner, and affecting your emotions? Let them know that you’re distracted.
Healthy communication comes from practicing relationship communication skills. Try these effective communication exercises together with your partner.
We all have that voice in our head constantly narrating throughout the day. It can be especially influential when it comes to what we think about ourselves. Sometimes our inner narrator is more of a bully, feeding us negativity. Think about what it says when you make a mistake or receive feedback. Our self-talk or inner critic can influence how we communicate with our partners.
If we are negative toward ourselves it’s bound to cause conflict with our partner for a number of reasons. For example, negative self-talk can cause you to have automatic responses or reactions to words, and facial expressions of your partner.
Take turns giving each other a compliment and then notice how your inner voice responds. Try to notice what your inner voice is telling you throughout the day. Noticing is the first step. If you recognize it’s mostly negative, challenge it. Call it out for being a fraud and replace it with a positive statement.
With the business of everyday life, we can forget to talk about the things that truly matter. We can forget to share our thoughts and feelings, what’s inside our hearts.
Write a journal entry, expressing whatever is on your mind and in your heart. Be open and vulnerable. Try not to think too much about it.
Then share it with your partner. After you’ve read your partner’s entry, respond by coming up with questions to learn more. Avoid any judgment. Offer them validation and encouragement and thank them for sharing with you.
Renowned relationship expert, John Gottman stresses the importance of maintaining a friendship with your partner. One way you can do that is to have fun conversations, void of finances, work, and the like. This is also a great way to learn more about each other. Even if you’ve been together for decades, there’s always more to learn about your partner.
Here are some fun ideas to get you started:
The “three and three exercise” is popular in couples therapy, but can be just as effective on your own. In this simple exercise, each person writes down three things they don’t love about their partner and three things they do. The goal is to be open and honest.
It’s important that you both agree to remain calm when you share your list and to view the “don’t loves” as opportunities. The conversation that follows should be one of mutual respect with the intention of growing individually and as a couple.
It can be difficult to express what you really feel, especially if you’re afraid it will hurt your partner in some way. This exercise aims to remove the roadblock that might be keeping you from talking about that thing that’s been bothering you and has been creating distance.
Think of an emotion you feel that’s connected to something your partner does.
Similar to the “three and three” exercise, come up with 3 positive emotions and 3 negative emotions you want to share.
This exercise is often done as team-building or as an ice-breaker in any group setting. Each person shares the best and worst parts of their day while the other listens respectively, without judgment. The purpose is to increase connection and communication by getting personal and showing that life consists of both good and bad.
Try to reserve time each day to share your highs and lows, maybe at dinner or before bed. This exercise should serve as a window into the other person’s life, as well as a conversation starter.
Sometimes without meaning to, we jump to extremes when emotions are involved. We might exaggerate or become more dramatic in order to drive home the point and make it known that we feel a certain way. This can cause you to speak in absolutes. “Always” and “never” are constrictive and will most likely cause your partner to get defensive. For example, “You never listen” or “You’re always late”.
Next time you want to use a statement like this, try to rephrase it. Instead, you could say, “I’m feeling lonely. Could we carve out some time tonight for us to talk?”
Avoid using these statements and have some fun at the same time. Agree with your partner that anytime either one of you uses one of these statements they have to give the other a massage, plan the next date, or do the dishes.
Communication is the number one issue that couples report. You may have different communication styles. Emotions or past experiences may hinder your ability to communicate. Communication can seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re struggling with communication, help is waiting! Our couples therapists are trained to help you connect and bring back the passion in your relationship.