It’s easy to assume that as your relationship grows so will your closeness and ability to communicate with one another. That may be the case for some couples, but for many, this just isn’t true.
Trying to manage daily life, family, jobs and all the other stressors that we face can leave couples disconnected and unsure of how to talk to one another. This kind of communication breakdown usually occurs slowly. Over time, it can lead to big problems.
The mistaken idea that love and communication grows naturally without any effort and work is one of the biggest contributors to marital problems. Many times, couples assume that the love in their relationship is gone and things have come to an end — when really what they need to do is spend some time working on their communication so they can bring things back to a healthy point.
How To Start Improving Communication
Knowing this doesn’t mean it will be easy, though. Practicing good communication skills takes effort and thought. And it can be hard to know where to start — and how. Check out these tips for effective communication below.
1Watch your body language
We overlook this quite often but our nonverbal communication typically starts the conversation before we even speak, and not always in a good way. Crossed arms, a half-turned head, not making eye contact – these are all signs of disinterest or even hostility. They are less than conducive to effective communication.
So, start paying attention to what your body is doing as you speak and try to maintain an open posture.
2Watch your partner
Similar to needing to watch your own body language, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your partner’s. Taking cues from the way they are holding themselves can tell you a lot about how they are responding to you.
Being attuned to these things can help you alter your approach, check your own body language or redirect the conversation as needed. The changes you make can be mirrored by your partner and change the dynamic for the better.
See Also: How to Improve your Body Language
3Listen and respond
This may seem simple, but if you stop to think about how many times you have uh-huhed your way through a conversation, you can see that it’s easy to forget to actively listen. A conversation is between two people which means that both need to participate fully.
And participation means you look at your partner, listen to what they say, and respond accordingly. This is also a sign of respect, which is a cornerstone of a strong and healthy relationship.
4Your way isn’t always the right way
This is where a lot of couples get tripped up, especially when it comes to household duties. It’s easy to assume there’s always a right or a wrong way to do things and that you and you alone know the difference — you don’t.
And acting as though you do will immediately put your partner on the defensive. So, understand that different approaches or different ways to handle things doesn’t equal wrong.
5Know the difference between communication and sparring
An adversarial approach will sink a conversation and never result in a positive outcome. Your partner shouldn’t be your enemy – so don’t treat them like one.
You know what it means to you, so understand that’s it’s equally as important to your partner and to the health of your relationship. Snide or sarcastic comments, dismissive behavior, and lack of interest in what he or she has to say is not only rude, but it also closes the door to any kind of positive communication.
7Mind before mouth
Not everything you think needs to be said. Knowing which thoughts to keep to yourself, or to rephrase before speaking, is important in all aspects of life. This is especially true in a romantic relationship. Words spoken in anger or without regard to how they will be received can be extremely hurtful and do a lot of damage.
These seven tips for effective communication are not an exact formula, but they are essential components. Without these things present, there will be problems. But each couple is different and precisely what is needed to improve communication can vary. More important than any one of these things is the fact that you are interested and willing to try to make improvements.
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Author: Dr. Kurt Smith
Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching, a Northern California counseling practice that specializes in helping men and the women who love them. His expertise is in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their relationships better.