Emotional health

The most popular myth about communication in relationships is that since you talk to your partner, you’re automatically communicating.

Well, you may not really be communicating about the important stuff.

Communication either makes or breaks most relationships. You can improve your relationship today, right now, by putting into practice some of these tips for improving the communication in your relationship.

Stop and listen.

How many times have you heard someone say this or read this in an article about communication skills? How hard is it to actually do when you’re “in the moment?” It’s harder than it sounds. We’re often so afraid of not being heard, we rush to keep talking. Ironically, such behavior makes it all the more likely we won’t be heard.

Force yourself to hear.

You’ve stopped talking for the moment, but your head is still swirling with all of the things you want to say, so you’re still not really hearing what is being said. Laugh all you want, but therapists have a technique that works very well that “forces” them to really hear what a client tells them—rephrasing what a person has just said to them (called “reflection”).

Be open and honest with your partner.

Some people have never been very open to others in their life. But to be in a relationship is to take a step toward opening up your life and opening up yourself. It may mean opening yourself up to possible hurt and disappointment. But it also means opening yourself up to the full potential of all a relationship can be.

Pay attention to nonverbal signals.

Most of our communication with one another in any friendship or relationship isn’t what we say, but how we say it. Nonverbal communication is your body language, the tone of your voice, its inflection, eye contact, and how far away you are when you talk to someone else. Reading your partner’s nonverbal signals takes time and patience, but the more you do it, the more attuned you will be to what they’re really saying, such as:

• Lack of eye contact may mean they’re not really interested in what you’re saying, are ashamed of something, or find it difficult to talk about something.

• A louder, more aggressive tone may mean the person is escalating the discussion and is becoming very emotionally involved. It might also suggest they feel like they’re not being heard or understood.

And while you’re reading your partner’s nonverbal signals, be aware of your own.

Stay focused in the here and now.

Sometimes discussions turn into arguments that can then morph into a discussion about everything and the kitchen sink. To be respectful of one another and the relationship, you should try and keep the discussion (or argument) focused to the topic at hand.

Be ready to cede an argument.

How many times do we continue to argue or have a heated discussion because we simply want to be “right?” Why? Because so many of couples’ arguments revolve around one party thinking they’re “right” and the other party not willing to cede the point or back off. In fact, though, both parties need to back off.