Poor communication is the #1 reason that otherwise healthy couples split up. Even well-matched partners can fall apart if they don’t know how to communicate their problems.
If you’re trying to save your relationship, you need to boost your communication strategies. We’re here to help. Read on to learn all about how to communicate with your partner in a healthier way.
Learn to Read Body Language
This is one of the top communication skills that you can use to improve your relationship(s). You should do your best to learn how to read your partner’s body language.
Body language can be confusing. Sometimes the things that someone is saying won’t align with what their body is doing. Why is that?
People often say one thing and mean another, or they say what they think is “right” even if it’s not what they really think. Their mouths can betray them, but their bodies might not.
If you’re having a conversation with your partner and the words that they’re saying seem positive, but their arms are crossed and they’re turned away from you, what does that mean?
Keep in mind that everyone displays different body language, so what reads as “annoyed” for one person might be neutral for another. You need to learn your partner’s specific body language if you want the best results from this strategy.
Use “I” Statements
When you’re having a conversation with your partner, especially a heated conversation, resist the urge to assign or even imply blame with “you” statements.
“You” statements assume the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of the other person. For example, “You hurt me when you called me that.”
Yes, the other person did call you the offending term, but you’re not framing it in a productive way. Instead, “I feel hurt when I’m called things like that.” This is a passive statement, but it removes blame and focuses on how the situation impacted you.
This will allow you to start the conversation on neutral ground instead of with an accusation. It doesn’t mean that you won’t hold the other person responsible, but it will (hopefully) help you avoid some tension.
You can also use “we” statements to approach things together. Instead of “you need to communicate better,” try “we need to work on our communication methods” so you’re approaching it as a team instead of as adversaries.
Do your best to ask questions to keep the conversation going. Not asking questions can make it seem like you’re not paying attention or make you seem totally disinterested in your partner.
Even small questions like “and then what?” indicate that you’re listening. They encourage the flow of conversation.
During serious conversations, ask open-ended questions. “Yes or no” questions aren’t conducive to in-depth talks.
Don’t Be a Mind Reader
It’s tempting to project your own thoughts and insecurities onto your partner, but resist this urge. You can’t read their mind and you don’t know what they’re thinking, so do your best to not make assumptions.
This is another time in which asking questions and being communicative is helpful. Instead of assuming that your partner is ignoring you, ask them if everything is okay. They might have something unrelated going on that’s taking some of their attention.
By trying to read your partner’s mind, you’ll likely come up with the worst-case scenario. It’s far easier to communicate.
Bonus: Don’t Expect Them to Be a Mind Reader
With this in mind, you also can’t expect your partner to read your mind.
If you’re feeling upset, don’t assume that your partner knows why. Let’s use the example of your partner “ignoring” you again. You feel cranky because your partner isn’t meeting your need for attention, and in your mind, they’re doing it on purpose.
On their end, they don’t know why you’re upset because you haven’t said anything. You’re creating conflict when it would be far easier to just voice your concern and have an open and honest conversation.
Never be afraid to make requests. As the saying goes, “Don’t ask, don’t get.” If you have a need or a want, your partner won’t be able to fulfill it if you don’t share it with them.
Not asking for things can lead to resentment.
Whether you’re having a standard conversation or a heavy one, do your best to validate your partner’s emotions, even if you don’t understand them. This doesn’t mean that you’re telling your partner that they’re right or rational, but rather that it’s okay to have those feelings and express them.
If your partner is telling you that they feel upset when you don’t warn them that you’re going to be late, find a way to repeat that back to them. For example, “It totally makes sense that you’d feel disrespected when I don’t show up on time.”
This way, they know that you’re listening and you’re taking responsibility.
Focus on the Conversation
When we all have technology at our fingertips at all times, it’s easy to get distracted. You’re working on your laptop or scrolling through your phone when you’re supposed to be paying attention!
Do your best to give your partner your full attention during serious conversations. Set your phone to the side.
Even during casual conversations, tick your phone away if you don’t need it. Leave it face-down or in your pocket on dates and show your partner that you’re committed to being present.
Pause Before Reacting
This is the toughest conversation skill for many people: you need to pause before you react.
In a heated moment, it’s easy to be reactive. You’re upset, your partner is upset, and the situation is begging for a fight. Resist that urge, take a deep breath, and step back.
If you or your partner needs quiet time before the conversation continues, take some space. There’s nothing wrong with leaving and returning to the conversation when you’ve both calmed down.
Try These Communication Strategies
These communication strategies can strengthen (or even save) your relationship(s). Clear communication doesn’t always come naturally. It takes effort!
If you want to maintain a healthy relationship, you should always be trying to strengthen your communication with your partner.
Are you looking for more helpful relationship tips? At Mend the Bond, we’ve got you covered! Start here with 7 Relationship Red Flags.