Communication is a paramount factor in developing a strong and lasting relationship. In fact, the reason that many relationships fail can be accredited to poor communication skills. If you’ve read the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray, you might already know some useful advice, but there are many more ideas that need to be considered. Putting sex differences aside, there are several simple strategies to ensure effective communication.
Most importantly, it is critical to set aside a time to stop and talk with your partner. This can be about positive things, things that happened during the day, or improving the relationship. According to Buehler, this should be a daily activity if possible, but at least occur a few times a week. Peter Lim notes that opening up to everything may not be comfortable at first, but will establish a stronger bond as a result. Once this time of discussion has been set, one must become involved with it. In order to receive the full benefits of this time together, one needs to truly listen to their partner. As Grohol says, it is sometimes difficult to listen intently, because we may only be thinking about what we want to say, and not about what our partner is saying. In order to get around this, active listening may be employed. Repeating what the other person says can be a stepping stone to becoming a better listener. Buehler makes the analogy of working in customer service. Look at any complaint, and take it as a way to help your “customer”, instead of taking it as a criticism. Instead of defending yourself, attack the problem together, and reach a healthy solution.
To accomplish these practices, one must make certain to follow a few other ideas. The first is to simply respect your spouse. This may seem obvious, but in times when one may not be in the best of spirits, it does become a challenge to be considerate. When starting a conversation, Lim says to tell your partner how much they matter to you, and let them know that they have your full attention. Reserve any judgments about the discussion until after your partner has spoken. Jumping to conclusions will only upset your spouse more, and being impatient shows that you aren’t giving your full attention. Set a tone of respect in the talk, and one will be less likely to have aggressive behavior. Aggression, says Beuhler, should be avoided at all costs. Examples she uses are insults, raising one’s voice, and sarcasm. This shows a complete lack of respect. She notes that you would never insult a co-worker or stranger because of a difference in opinion, so talk through conflicts as adults. She also notes not to be passive. Avoiding a discussion because you are nervous about it, or because you simply want to avoid it, will only make your partner more upset, and build problems that are already present. Grohol mentions the happy medium between passiveness and aggression. That is, try to avoid emotion completely when talking about important things. There is a time to be emotional, such as talking about sports or movies. However, when talking about improving a relationship, a serious mentality needs to be held. Otherwise, emotions can flare up, and turn into passive or aggressive behavior.
Finally it is important to note that not all conflicts can reach a resolution immediately. First of all, Buehler says to make sure that is the right time to talk. In order to have productive communication, both partners should be ready to talk. If only one wants to talk, the other partner will not be in the right state of mind to solve anything. Putting the conversation on hold in this case is not passive, because both partners know that it will happen at the right time, and not be avoided. It is equally important to take breaks from conflicts sometimes. Taking breaks gives us time to think over what has been said, and reach healthy resolutions. Decisions made hastily to end a discussion will likely not be very effective. Agree to disagree with your partner, give yourself more time to think it over, and coming back to the problem later will yield a much more positive conclusion.
There are still many more ways to build a successful relationship through communication. The important thing to realize is that everyone is different, and everyone naturally holds a different communication style. By following these basic principles, though, people can begin to resolve issues peacefully. These practices may seem foreign to many people at first, but by repeating them with someone whom you love and trust, they will become secondhand. Once this happens, a relationship will prosper, and both partners will experience the benefits of effective communication.
Dr. Stephanie Buehler, “6 Secrets to Better Couples Communication and Intimacy,” Ezine Articles
Peter Lim, “Improving Communication Between Couples,” Peter the Planner
John M Grohol, PSYD, “9 Steps to Better Communication Today,” PsychCentral