Posted By: Kelly Seal Date: 11-15-2020 Comments: 0
One of the biggest obstacles to a healthy and happy relationship is something you have probably heard before: a lack of good communication. If you want to be a better communicator, keep reading.
Being a good communicator is not a skill we are born with, it’s one that we develop over time and with many hard lessons learned. Don’t be discouraged if you feel like you aren’t connecting with your partner, or if you find yourself getting frustrated or feeling misunderstood. Instead, think about what you can change to help facilitate better communication.
Even if your partner isn’t a great communicator – whether they tend to be quiet and emotionally reserved or negatively react to any criticism – there is still room to grow and develop your connection. Remember: it goes both ways, so there’s likely something you can change, too.
The best way to develop communication skills between you and your partner is to consider what patterns have taken form, and what changes can be made to benefit both of you. Here are five tips to help you get started.
1. Learn the communication style of your partner.
As Tony Robbins says, it’s important to learn the communication style of your partner above all, because this holds the secret to true connection. For example, if you are an auditory person but your partner communicates through touch, instead of just talking about each other’s needs, consider that it might be important for your partner if you reinforce your feelings through touch and eye contact in addition to words. For a good guide on this method, check out The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.
Most of us work from our assumptions and established patterns rather than entering each conversation with an open mind. For example, let’s say your partner gets frustrated because you didn’t check in before scheduling dinner with friends. Instead of wondering why this small problem turns into a bigger issue, consider what underlies the frustration. Do they feel overlooked, or that their schedule doesn’t matter? Ask questions and more importantly, listen for the answers.
2. Practice active listening with your partner. (Don’t try to read minds!
We often try to read minds, and perhaps even attempt to finish the other’s sentences when we are in a relationship, because any good partner should know exactly what you are thinking, right? (Answer: no.) People are different and we are always growing, likely at different paces. The truth is, you have no idea what your partner is thinking unless you ask! So instead of assuming you know why they are upset, let them tell you. Then repeat back exactly what you heard – a practice called active listening. Psychologists say this helps you understand better what they are saying, because to repeat back you need to really pay attention in the first place. It sounds strange, but it works – we often don’t know what we’ve missed until we have to repeat it back to someone.
3. Don’t get defensive.
I have trouble with this one! I often get defensive if my husband tells me something I don’t want to hear, or if we are having problems in communicating with each other. When this happens, I have to step back and remind myself that he is only sharing his perspective with me – not his judgment. When I don’t take criticisms personally, I can address the issue more effectively. In other words, don’t read into a request – if your partner is reaching out, take it at face value instead of as a criticism and see what you can do proactively instead of being reactive.
4. Communicate what you need from your partner.
Sometimes it’s hard to ask for what you need. We all run into this problem from time to time, maybe because we are ashamed of asking for a particular thing or maybe because we don’t want to burden someone else with our needs. Here’s the truth – your partner likely wants to know what your needs are and wants to help! Instead of backing away from or hiding your needs, it’s much healthier to know what you want and to ask for it. It makes for a happier relationship, too.
5. Let Things Go.
This sounds easy on the surface, but it’s one of the hardest parts of communication, especially if you’ve been with your partner for a while. Each time your partner neglects or dismisses something that is important to you, the pain resurfaces all over again. It’s not easy to move past old hurts, but it’s necessary for any relationship to move forward. When you are willing to let go of your attachment to a particular painful part of your history in exchange for openness and honesty, it makes it easier to connect with your partner. Don’t retreat into your hurt. Instead, communicate how you are feeling, and set your intention to move forward with each other in a healthier way.
Kelly Seal is a freelance writer, dating expert, and author of the book “Date Expectations: A Guide to Changing Your Dating Life and Finding Real Love.” She got her start in the dating industry by hosting speed dating events around southern California and offering advice and encouragement to attendees. She now lives in L.A. and spends her free time hiking in the Santa Monica mountains and blogging at www.kellyseal.com.