The communication climate is created by what we think, how we react, what we say and how we say it. Negative thoughts often start verbal conversations off on the wrong foot. People may shut down when they feel uneasy and become defensive. This behaviour can be triggered by judgmental language, hidden motives and lack of concern.
It is important to identify defensive patterns and turn them into supportive ones. The source of the discomfort needs to be identified by asking questions. Don’t convince the person of anything or force the issue. Allow your partner to speak first before you process what was said and react to it.
Here are 8 ways couples can improve how they communicate with each other:
- Practice active listening. This requires a genuine interest in the other person. It is fine if there is silence in between talking, just don’t stop listening when your partner is speaking.
- Ask questions that are genuine and show an interest in what your partner is saying.
- Put your partner on a pedestal and talk to them in an appropriate way. Show them that they are respected and valued.
- If you want to learn from your partner, you need to be transparent. Be honest and say what you think and express clearly how you really feel.
- Don’t interrupt, criticize, blame or belittle your partner. This behaviour will put them off and will exacerbate matters.
- Try to see issues in a different way and from your partner’s perspective. This teaches you how to empathise with them, better relate to your partner and express your feelings without being aggressive or defensive.
- Don’t assume your partner knows what you’re thinking. Be clear and direct in what you are saying and wanting to happen, without being negative, pushy or disrespectful.
- Breathe and try to relax before speaking. Give yourself time to collect your thoughts first and balance your emotions. Sometimes when we are feeling strong emotions we can speak too soon and say things we regret or don’t really mean ‘in the moment’. This can hurt your partner and can be difficult to fix.
Remember that the goal of good communication is to understand and satisfy both parties, and not to win an argument or be right.
This doesn’t always work, but sometimes (if you’re in a conflict in a romantic relationship) it can help to stay physically connected while you talk. It can remind you that you are still attracted to one another and generally support each other.
It’s also very important to remain respectful of the other person, even if you don’t like their actions.
Winning isn’t everything; it’s the means to an end. If you can find a way to resolve the conflict that makes both parties happy, then you’ve done a good thing. Also, if you remain respectful of the other person, then you will likely gain their respect, too.
Making relationships work takes practice, effort and patience. You need to be present and work on improving your skills. This can significantly affect your relationship for the better! So, take this advice on board and start working on your relationship today!