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How to Communicate Better With Your Partner

Written by Stephanie Beck, CCC. Stephanie is a Vancouver-based relationship counsellor who provides in-person and online counselling services.

A young happy couple improving their communication skills

Communication is key to all relationships. It is vital for our friends, family, and coworkers. It is how we express ourselves, gain insight into the people around us, and build relationships. Communication is talking, the actual words we are saying. However, it is important that the people we are talking to comprehend what we are saying to them. That is a challenge in some relationships.

Communication is even deeper than verbal communication. There is also nonverbal communication. This includes gestures, mannerisms, and sounds we use. Eye contact, body language, and physical appearance are all nonverbal forms of communicating.

Communication is powerful. It can create beautiful moments, strengthen relationships, and help grow a deep bond. It can also be catastrophic to those we love if we aren’t communicating healthily. If we use it to hurt others, whether intentional or accidental, it is incredibly damaging.

Recognizing negative forms of communication

It is great to show a loved one how much you care for and appreciate them. When the relationship is going well, it is easier to maintain healthy communication.

However, it is challenging to always communicate in the way you want to-especially when conflict arises. Learned behaviours such as shutting down, yelling, stonewalling, crossing arms, refusing to make eye contact, and interrupting others are all negative forms of communication.

Improving communication

It is normal for addressing conflict and stress in a healthy, appropriate way to take time. These negative learned behaviours need to be replaced with positive, healthy ways to handle tough situations.

Try these tips to improve your communication:

  • Set aside time each day to speak with your partner without distractions. Practice your communication and comprehend what your partner is saying.

  • Maintain good nonverbal communication. Make eye contact, don’t roll your eyes, touch your partner, and use inviting gestures.

  • Do not criticize your partner. Talking with you should be their safe place - welcome their thoughts and ideas.

  • Think about your tone of voice. How you sound can change how it is interpreted by your partner. Something said in an angry, frustrated tone will be unwelcome, whereas a calm statement will create a productive conversation.

  • Be attentive to your partner. Respond to what they are saying to you and make sure your actions match your words.

  • Use “I” statements with your partner. “I feel…”, “I like it when…”, or “I don’t like it when…”.

Those tips help in everyday life. However, you may find it more difficult when you add stress to your relationship or daily life. When conflicts happen:

  • If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, it is okay to say, “I need to take a moment to regroup. I will be back to talk in 10 minutes”. Calm down using a technique that works for you. Then go back to your partner to have a healthy, productive conversation.

  • Verbalize feelings and clearly articulate your needs.

  • Listen and digest what your partner is saying.

  • Ask questions. This will help you better understand what your partner is feeling and trying to explain to you. Understanding your partner will help in many areas of your relationship.

  • Be patient and respectful.

  • Ask your partner, "Do you feel understood?". If they do not, continue asking them questions to better understand.

If you communicate with these tips each time there is a stressor, you will grow as a couple. It will get easier each time, and your bond will deepen. Communication truly is key to a healthy, long-lasting relationship. Get to communicating!

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