8 Ways to Improve Communication in Your Relationship
Healthy communication in relationships makes a world of difference — it enables an intimate connection and conflict resolution. Whether you’re new to a relationship or have been in it for a while, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of poor communication. Sometimes unintentionally, you don’t listen or speak as frequently or clearly as you should.
Figuring out how to improve communication with your partner? Here are eight effective strategies that may come in handy for you. Also, here’s how therapy can help.
Recognize Poor Communication
Poor communication sneaks up on many couples — the occasional argument remains unsolved because you can’t agree on anything, and you sweep it under the rug to keep the peace. Although you intend to keep each other happy, not getting resolutions can have adverse long-term effects.
Here are some of the communication red flags to look out for. Recognizing them will help you identify the areas that need work.
Not facing conflict head-on leaves you with hidden anger. Passive-aggressive behavior allows you to express your frustration without having a conversation and may give temporary satisfaction. However, it’s not a long-term solution.
Passive aggression might look like this:
- Cracking jokes about your partner’s weaknesses
- Punishing them by giving the silent treatment
- Questioning their decisions in a seemingly light-hearted manner
Avoiding and ignoring issues might make you feel better in the moment. You might even suppress your anger and convince yourself to forgive your partner. The problem with this approach is that your negative thoughts and emotions build up over time and result in an outburst.
When you use aggressive speech, it might be the sign of a toxic communication pattern. Being openly hostile may involve:
- Raising your voice
- Controlling the conversation
Aggressive speech can be a sign that your communication needs have not been met, and you’re acting out of frustration.
Do you recognize any of these signs? Keep these tips on how to improve communication in a relationship in mind.
Eliminate Negative Thoughts
Unhealthy communication starts in your mind with a negative thought or complex emotion. The words you speak result from these thoughts and emotions; therefore, not watching what’s going through your mind when you talk to someone can have disastrous consequences.
Some negative thought patterns to avoid include:
- Exaggerating negative consequences – jumping to the worst possible conclusion and hunting for information that feeds into the negative story.
- Black and white thinking – not leaving room for possibilities, e.g., if your partner is late, they don’t care about you; never mind that they might have been delayed by traffic.
- Emotional reasoning – not all your feelings are facts. Learn to recognize the difference between thoughts and emotions; you can work on the former and shift your focus to positive thoughts.
Create a Supportive Communication Climate
In most relationships, familiarity gives you an idea of how your partner will react to certain situations. You might not realize when your communication changes based on your perception of your partner. You might be dismissive of their opinion, saying things like, “You’re always so dramatic.”
What you say and how you say it creates a supportive or destructive communication climate. A destructive communication climate can result in miscommunication and is created by:
- Judgmental and accusatory language
- Manipulative approach
- Perceived superiority (power or intellect)
- Lack of concern
- Unwillingness to compromise
- Hidden motives and deceit
On the other hand, a supportive climate enables constructive conversation and is created by:
- Having a genuine desire to understand your partner’s point of view
- Openness to finding a solution
- Respect and politeness for everyone
- Showing empathy
- Willingness to investigate
It’s essential to recognize your habits that create defensive communication climates and turn them into supportive ones.
To start a conversation, offer a factual observation instead of your interpretation of the situation. For example, imagine a scenario where your partner arrives late for a date or doesn’t show up at all. You might interpret their actions to mean they had something more important to do or that they don’t care much for you.
Starting a conversation with your interpretation of the situation makes you the accuser and them the defendant. Instead, you could simply state your observation, “I realize you didn’t show up for our date.”
Then, allow them to speak. Stating a factual observation sets the ball rolling for an honest conversation.
H2: Listen Actively
Active listening is doing more than keeping quiet while your partner talks. It requires you to have genuine curiosity during the conversation.
To listen actively, you need to:
- Show your attention using body language, e.g., nodding in agreement
- Quiet your thoughts and focus on the conversation
- Bear no judgment
- Be silent. Ask only questions for clarification
It’s impossible to truly listen to your partner while doing something else at the same time. You should avoid common listening mistakes:
- Thinking of something else while your partner is speaking
- Thinking of what to say next (anticipatory listening)
- Judging what your partner is saying
- Listening with a specific goal/outcome in mind
You have an inner lens that’s responsible for how you decode a message. When talking to your partner, ensure that what you’ve understood is what they were trying to say.
An excellent way to do this is to use your own words to summarize how you understood the message. Paraphrasing their message allows them to clarify any misunderstandings that may cause conflict.
Use the 24-hour Rule
Challenges are part and parcel of a relationship. From minor concerns to major disagreements, you won’t always see eye to eye. The 24-hour rule is a simple way of choosing which battles are worth fighting.
If you’re feeling frustrated by your partner and are about to voice your complaint, pause and think pragmatically.
Will the source of your frustration matter to you in 24-hours?
Are the dirty pants he tossed by the laundry basket instead of inside it worth getting angry over?
If not, let it go.
Be careful when implementing the 24-hour rule. It’s not an excuse to sweep stuff under the rug. If something is truly important to you, always express your feelings clearly and constructively.
The key is to look deep inside you to find the root cause of your frustration and address it. Sometimes, the dirty pants on the floor are triggering your annoyance caused by another issue.
Just like any other skill you need to learn, effective communication takes time and practice. You can’t master communication skills overnight.
To get good at speaking and listening, start with simple daily habits and stay consistent. Know that you might slip back into old habits sometimes, but it doesn’t mean that you should give up on your quest for a healthy relationship. With time, your ability to say what’s on your mind and listen to your partner will get better.
The Bottom Line
To communicate effectively, try to see your partner in a different light. Always assume the best for them and talk about how you value, appreciate, and respect them no matter what. In response, their reaction will likely be positive.
If you’re struggling with communication, couples counseling might be the solution that can help you improve your communication skills.
Working with a therapist on Calmerry can help to identify unhealthy communication patterns and build new ones. If you’re in a long-distance relationship or don’t have time to commute, online therapy is a convenient alternative that works.