Whether you fear that lack of communication skills is damaging your relationship or you simply want to improve it, learning how to communicate better in a relationship will bring you closer to your partner.
Communication can make or break a relationship. No matter how strongly you feel about your partner, unless you’re able to communicate these feelings or anything else you want them to know, it can lead to misunderstandings, stress and resentment.
Different expectations, assuming that things go without saying, not expressing appreciation and similar behaviors can cause problems in an otherwise healthy relationship, but they can be countered with effective communication.
Here are the strategies, tips and techniques that will help you learn how to communicate better in a relationship.
20 Tips On How To Communicate Better In A Relationship
Before you can learn how to communicate better in a relationship, you must realize that good communication has to start with you. Waiting for the other person to change their behavior first doesn’t work. You’re in control of the way you communicate.
Deciding to speak up only if they speak up first, or expecting them to do something different before you do it, is useless. You can’t change anyone’s behavior but your own, so you must decide to work on healthy communication yourself without any expectations from the other person.
Do your part and you’ll notice that the other person’s communication habits are changing. They’ll learn from you even if they’re not actively trying and your relationship will improve. If they follow your example and actively work on effective communication, it will improve even faster.
Here’s what to do and what to avoid.
1. “Tell me more.” – Listen to each other
Listening is arguably the most important skill when it comes to communication. Keeping your ears and mind open when the other person is speaking is the only way to actually hear what they’re saying. This is the foundation of developing a healthy relationship.
When you hear what it is they’re trying to communicate, you understand their feelings, concerns or reasons. Listening to your partner might come to you naturally, but if you’re not confident in your listening skills, they can be developed as long as you’re willing to put in the work.
Active listening is the practice of showing attentiveness to the message your conversation partner wants you to get from their words.
It includes getting rid of distractions and giving them your full attention, observing the nonverbal communication, such as their body language and facial expressions, and then giving them feedback to confirm that you received the intended message.
Here are some tips:
• Look at the person who’s speaking. Maintain eye contact, but don’t stare or you can make them feel uneasy.
• Don’t let yourself get distracted from the conversation.
• Just listen as they talk, and don’t formulate answers in your head.
• Show that you’re listening by nodding, facial expressions, small encouraging comments etc., but don’t interrupt them.
• Let them finish. Don’t offer counter arguments as they speak.
• Focus on understanding what the other person is saying.
• Reflect on what you hear and ask questions if you don’t understand.
• Paraphrase what has been said to ensure that you understood correctly.
• Don’t let your judgment and assumptions influence what you’re hearing.
• Be honest with your response.
2. “What do you need?” – Ask questions
If mutual understanding is your main goal, let your partner know that you care about what they have to say by asking them thoughtful questions. This shows that you’re paying attention, that you’re looking for a connection and the effort you’re willing to put into your relationship.
When your partner understands that you want to hear what they’re saying, they’ll communicate more readily and openly.
Ask questions that show you’re listening, questions that clarify what you’ve heard, questions that probe deeper, questions that show you’re paying attention to the message they’re trying to convey and questions that show that you want to help.
3. “This is what I need.” – Be clear and don’t expect them to read your mind
There are four different communication styles: assertive, passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive. Out of these, the assertive communication style is considered the most effective and the one we should all strive to adopt.
Assertive communication is the ability to express yourself – your feelings, your needs, your thoughts – and to allow others to do the same. This balance is one of the keys of effective communication.
Become more assertive by clearly expressing your own thoughts without thinking that something goes without saying. Make requests directly and without expecting the other person to guess what you mean.
If you’re afraid that this is too demanding, there’s no need to worry as long as you’re respecting what the other person is saying as much as you want them to respect you.
4. “I see where you’re coming from.” – Respect their point of view
Respecting each other’s perspective is crucial for a balanced relationship. Disagreeing with each other is normal and healthy, but it’s necessary that you don’t assume that you are always indisputably correct.
Instead of trying to change how your partner feels or thinks about something, accept it as their point of view and realize that you don’t have to agree on everything. Try to understand instead of trying to judge or convince them.
Tell the other person if you weren’t aware that they saw things that way and that your viewpoint is different, but that you’re willing to understand theirs.
When your partner is convinced that you’re accepting and prepared to see things from their perspective, they’ll be open to doing the same.
5. “Here’s what happened.“ – Be honest
White lies, lies of omission, misleading, not being straightforward, putting off the truth – everything except full honesty can hurt your relationship. Dishonesty in any form builds walls between people, creates doubt and breaks trust.
Even if you’re convinced that you’re not hurting the other person, there are always consequences. Even if you think that they won’t be able to tell, body language signs of lying can give you away. Even if you’re sure it’s not a big deal, it will create a habit of dishonesty.
When the reason you’re not being honest is that you’re afraid of their reaction, it’s still better to be truthful and trust your partner and your relationship.
6. “This is how I feel.” – Be open about your feelings
Emotional intimacy is one of the most important types of intimacy in a relationship. Openly sharing your feelings with another person is scary for some, but to truly connect to someone, it’s necessary.
At the start of a relationship, small talk and superficial conversation is enough – opening up too fast can result in oversharing – but as you build your relationship and trust, you can start being more and more vulnerable with someone.
A long-term relationship can’t develop unless you open up to the other person, or if it does, it won’t be successful. Holding back instead of talking about how you feel prevents your relationship from growing.
7. “I appreciate you.” – Express appreciation and affection
Even during difficult conversations, don’t forget why you’re in this relationship. Love, care and partnership are what matters. In intimate relationships, regularly reminding your partner of your feelings, creates a happier, more trusting relationship.
Find ways of saying “I appreciate you” that are meaningful to your partner. Make an effort to make them feel loved, validated and respected. Spending time together and acknowledging what you mean to each other will make you feel more connected.
8. “I did it.” – Take responsibility
Take responsibility for your actions and your feelings. Your reactions are your own – don’t accuse the other person for causing them. Instead, explain how you feel. Say “I was worried when you didn’t answer the phone” instead of “Why do you have to be so insensitive?”
A good relationship is an effect of effort, such as taking great care to respect your partner, their mental health and well-being and making them feel safe. Not taking responsibility for yourself and your behavior is the opposite of this.
If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and talk about it without assigning responsibility to the other person. This is the way to deal with it and move on.
9. “Let’s talk.“ – Set aside time to talk
In romantic relationships, it’s important to regularly make time to have a conversation with your partner. It’s best to check in with your partner every day, but if that’s impossible, still try to do it as often as possible.
Creating a ritual, such as having dinner together every evening or taking a walk where you focus on each other and talk is helpful in establishing regular relationship communication habits. Use this time to share any news, concerns and other things you want the other person to know.
It all comes down to just taking your time to communicate. This is how you stay in touch with each other’s thoughts and feelings without letting things pile up until it’s easier to give up than deal with them.
10. “I accept you.“ – Always be kind
Supporting each other in a relationship is what creates a true partnership. Being the one your partner can always count on to be on their side, someone they can rely on for comfort and acceptance creates trust and a deep connection.
Relationships shouldn’t be more struggle than joy. In the end, we enter them because of a desire for companionship with a certain person. Make your partner always feel accepted and loved by approaching them with kindness.
Create a nurturing and warm atmosphere in your relationship and let your partner know how important they are to you. If you always have their well-being as your priority, then even your arguments will be productive. Make them laugh and look for things that make them happy.
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11. “Do you understand what I mean?“ – Don’t assume anything
Nothing is a given. To avoid communication issues, ask for clarification and offer clarification. Don’t assume that your partner will read between the lines or that their point of reference is the same as yours.
Even if you’ve been in a relationship a long time and know each other well, misunderstandings can happen. Take great care to prevent this. Couples become close, but when faced with problems, even the closest can be challenged by assumptions.
Assumptions are things left unsaid, so deal with them by stating them. It might prove difficult, but keep in mind that they only make things worse.
For example, you might think that your partner dislikes one of your close family members because of something they once said that made you assume that this is how they feel.
In reality, this was a casual remark and your partner is completely okay with your relative, so you’ve been avoiding having them near each other for no reason and you possibly created problems between them by distancing them.
12. “I want to understand.” – Don’t just wait for your turn to speak
If you listen just so you can reply, you’re not really listening. Being on the edge of your seat waiting for your turn is indicative of poor communication and defeats the purpose of talking to each other.
Instead of trying to make the other person see your point, try to understand them. No matter how attentive you seem to be, they’ll still be able to tell that you’re not really listening if all you’re looking for is a chance to say, “No, but look…”.
Make every effort to overcome this urge. Don’t compete with your partner – seek to understand their point of view, their feelings, their reactions and, most importantly, what it is that they want you to know.
Making this change will transform your relationship for the better.
13. “I need a moment.” – Don’t argue when you’re angry
Continuing to argue when you become angry rarely ends well. You say things you don’t mean trying to prove a point, and before you know it you’ve done irreparable damage to your relationship.
When you realize that your emotions are taking over, tell the other person that you need a break. Take your time to calm down, take a few deep breaths and think about things. Your feelings, your partner’s actions, the argument – whatever seems to be the most upsetting is what you should focus on the most.
When something the other person says and does really upsets you or triggers you, take a moment to examine why if you’re not sure. You might discover an underlying issue and dealing with it can solve more problems that you think at first.
14. “Let’s work on this problem.” – Don’t fight to win
One of the basic rules for a healthy relationship and a solution to many communication problems is to remember at all times that you are partners. This means that you’re united and that the relationship you share is something you create and nurture together.
This is why, when there are problems in your relationship, your goal is to solve that problem. The purpose of arguments is to get to the bottom of those problems and find a compromise that makes the both of you happy.
Conflict should never make you into enemies fighting to win. There are no winners in a situation like this, because if one of you prevails, your relationship suffers. When arguments escalate into trying to hurt and defeat each other, your problems might be more serious that it seems.
15. “It’s okay that you feel that way.“ – Don’t ignore the other person’s feelings
We all come from different backgrounds and react differently from other people to certain actions. Don’t expect your partner to accept something just because you do.
If the other person is upset, jealous or worried, acknowledge and understand their feelings and show empathy.
For example, if you have no problem with your partner liking other people’s pictures on social media and they do, don’t dismiss how they feel and tell them that it’s not a big deal. Instead, try to understand your partner’s triggers and help them deal with their feelings.
16. “Let’s try to deal with this.“ – Don’t criticize the other person
Show care and concern for the other person and communicate taking their well-being into account. Instead of using judgmental language, harsh tone of voice or nagging your partner, approach conversations from a place of love.
If you want your partner to change something in their behavior, criticism won’t get you what you’re after. Instead of shaming them and being demanding, talk to them openly and directly say what’s on your mind.
Compassion is one of the healthy expectations in a relationship to have and if you offer it to your partner, they’ll be much more eager to respond positively than if you try to bully them into agreeing with what you want.
17. “When you did it, I was hurt.“ – Don’t generalize
If you don’t like it when your partner does something, tell them and be as specific as possible when you do. This is the best way of preventing miscommunication. Use a specific example instead of talking about your partner’s habits of doing something.
When you use phrases like, “You always…”, the other person might feel attacked and become defensive. Instead, be specific and say something like, “I became upset when you said that.“
Treating every issue or conflict as the next step in a series of problems can create resentment. If your partner asks you to do something and your reaction is something like, “Why do you always want something from me?” you might be having deeper issues.
If it seems too difficult to overcome, couples therapy can be helpful in recognizing problematic communication patterns and changing them into something useful.
18. “It’s okay.“ – Don’t assign blame
When you start lecturing the other person or making accusations, they’ll stop listening or shut down. Don’t assume that someone’s actions were on purpose or that they were trying to hurt you.
When you blame your partner for your feelings or reactions, or even if you’re just looking to blame them for starting the argument, you’re creating a tense and defensive atmosphere.
Unless it really matters who did something, let it go and focus on what’s more important. As long as there are healthy boundaries in your relationship and they’re respected, avoid unnecessary conflict.
Does it really matter who misplaced the remote? Even if your partner does it all the time, before you let it become an issue, think deeply about how much it matters to you.
19. “I see what you mean.“ – Don’t let your reactions rule the conversation
Emotional reactions can easily turn a remark into an argument. They’re rarely based on what has been said, but on past experiences. When the other person says or does something that triggers an emotional reaction, you must make a conscious choice not to react and let things escalate.
If you feel yourself lashing out at the other person when they ask you to do something or they do something that annoys you, you’re probably letting your reactions take over.
Instead of letting your emotional reactions cause an argument, take a step back and decide to respond only to the current situation. Knowing how to do this will help a great deal in conflict resolution.
If you’re struggling with this, couples counseling can help.
20. “Let’s talk about this.” – Don’t refuse to discuss your problems
Dealing with problems instead of letting them fester is one of the characteristics of a healthy relationship. You must acknowledge the problem, talk about it and be committed to finding a solution. Don’t run away from uncomfortable conversations.
The longer you put off dealing with a problem, the more problems will accumulate until they create an insurmountable mountain. Unsolved relationship problems are like wounds which get infected if they’re not treated.
Willingness to solve your problems is necessary if you want to have a successful relationship, and the courage to face together whatever comes up.
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If you want to learn how to communicate better in a relationship and apply it in practice, the first thing you must do is make a commitment and make an effort. Prioritize your relationship instead of your ego and choose love over being right.
Listen to your partner and try to see their point of view. Be truthful and don’t take anything for granted. Be open about how you feel even if talking about your feelings makes you uncomfortable.
Approach arguments as a method of solving problems instead of trying to win the fight. Kindness, good will and desire for mutual understanding are important requirements for effective communication. The more practice you have, the easier it will become.