Honesty is they say the best policy and having honest communications leads to a healthy relationship. We all want what is best for our relationships no matter if it’s with colleagues, friends or family members. Today’s blog is all about improving communications with a partner, but the tips can be used in any relationship to improve it.
A couple of words of warning: firstly if you feel any of these tips would put you in danger don’t use them and secondly these tips will take time to become a natural way of communicating with your partner, you will have to work at them and practise them for a while before they become second nature to you. This might put you off but it’s worth it in the end. I would also advise you not to try to implement them at times of high stress, use them when you’re not under pressure first, take small steps and gain small wins to build up your confidence in making these changes.
It would be helpful if you both read the blog and took on board the tips together in order for them to work, but you can do this by yourself and helpfully your partner will ask you about why you have to change your way of communicating and how they can do it too. Having a weekly meeting where you catch up with each other is a great way to keep communication lines open between you. Make sure you both take responsibility to work on finances together and make decisions about your lives and the children together. There is nothing worse than a partner feeling like they are raising the kids or managing the finances alone either. Both of these issues will lead to endless arguments in your relationship if not tackled in a healthy manner.
Remember you are both grow-ups here and neither is solely responsible for the other’s health, wealth or happiness, this is a joint venture.
So how can you improve communications in your relationship?
- Agree to be honest even when the truth hurts, this is the key to a healthy relationship.
- Admit that you aren’t always perfect or right.
- Apologize when you make a mistake.
- Find the right time to talk when both you and your partner are calm and not distracted, stressed or in a rush. – as I said, weekly check-in meetings are a good way to do this, but if this is something that needs to be discussed now, then don’t wait – (If you’re angry check below for some tips )
- Get comfortable or if it’s finances then use the dining room table. Try to use someplace neutral i.e. never use the bedroom to talk finances.
- Talk face to face and avoid talking about serious matters or issues by text messages or email, as these can be misinterpreted. Talking in person limits any unnecessary miscommunications.
- Look at your partner and make eye contact, but remember it’s not a staring competition either with your partner.
- If you’re having trouble collecting your thoughts, consider writing them down ahead of time and reading them out loud to your partner.
- Use Active Listening – now this can be hard to learn as it involves really listening to the other person plus: Show your attention (nonverbal as above); Pay attention to your partner and don’t interrupt, Do not focus on thinking about your own thoughts regarding what you will say or respond; Do not judge what they say; Tolerate silence – as it allows you both to think before you speak; Most importantly Do Not Attack and Use “I” or “we” statements not “you” statements – make sure you say things like “I feel… when you do or say…”. Even when we mean well, we can sometimes come across as harsh because of our word choice.
- Ask your partner to share their perceptions by using open questions i.e.questions that don’t require a yes or no answer.
- Reflect back to your partner what you think your partner is saying. Check in with what you thought you heard them say by repeating what they said to you in your own words and asking them if this was correct: “What I hear you saying is…” or “If I understand you correctly, then I think you feel…” This lets your partner know that you really care about what they have to say and that you empathize with your partner’s perspective — it’s amazing how different a relationship can look to two different people!
- If there’s a problem that you are trying to solve, communicate your ideas for solutions. Never be afraid to admit your stuck and don’t have a solution. Try to use words that get your partner working with you to try to solve the problem like: “Well, perhaps we could try…” Or “What if I did . . . and you did . . .” “I’m stuck. What do you think we need to do next?”
- Keep the communication flowing, be willing to listen, make sure you are really hearing the message your partner is sending, and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know.
- Always remember, although there is only two of you in the room there is a third entity in the room – your relationship is there too and this needs constant work in order to remain healthy.
How to Communicate If You Are Angry
- Remember, it’s okay to get angry, everyone does it and rows happen in relationships, that doesn’t mean your relationship is over. What’s important is that you resolve conflicts in a healthy way.
- If you get really angry about something, stop, take a step back and breathe. Tell your partner you’d like to take a short break before continuing the conversation.
- Use that time to calm down by watching TV, talking to a friend, playing a video game, taking a walk, listening to some music or whatever helps you relax. Taking a break can keep the situation from getting worse.
- Use the 48 Hour Rule if you need to. If you’re still hurt 48 hours later, say something, remember your partner can’t read your mind. If you don’t speak up when you’re upset, there is no way for them to apologize or change. Once you do mention your hurt feelings and your partner sincerely apologise, let it go. Don’t bring up past issues if they’re not relevant.
- Use the time away and while calming down to think. After you’re no longer upset, think about the situation and why you got so angry. Was it how your partner spoke or something they did? Figure out the real problem, then think about how to explain your feelings. Again if you need to write it down do so and read it to your partner.
- Now it’s time to talk again and use the tips above.
- Remember to listen to what they have to say – after you tell your partner how you feel using your “I” statements – remember to stop talking and listen to what they have to say. You both deserve the opportunity to express how you feel in a safe and healthy environment.
Everything I’ve spoken about takes time to learn, particularly, if you didn’t have healthy role models as a child. But these are healthy habits and like all habits, they can be learnt with patience and practise. Don’t get mad and abandon them after a few tries. Remember too what I said at the beginning, start small, don’t try to use these for the first time either if you’re angry or having a big row with your partner. Small steps in time lead to more self-confidence and bigger rewards.