How to Be a Better Communicator in Your Relationship
It's one of the most important things you can do for your relationship.
If you're like most couples, you and your partner don't always get along. And that's not a bad thing! In fact, fighting can be good for your relationship, so long as you're fighting fair. In order to do this, you have to come from a place of love and respect, even when you're stressed out, annoyed, or downright angry. "Effective communication is the lifeblood of happy, healthy relationships," explains relationship coach Matt Morgan. "If you get this area of your relationship down, pick a topic, it all gets easier." The tricky part is learning the art and science of communication so that you and your partner can defuse fights faster. Here are some expert-approved tips that can help you be a better communicator.
Wear the Same Jersey
Morgan explains that communicating in a relationship is a lot like playing sports, especially when we see our partner as our enemy, or playing for the opposite team. In these instances, we use communication tactics that are unhealthy (blame shifting, shouting, stone walling, rolling your eyes, name calling, and using absolute language just to name a few). "If, however, our mindset is that we are on the same team, wearing the same jersey, it has a profound effect on the way you play the communication game," says Morgan. "The goal in the relationship is still to win, but now it's to win together, so when talking with anyone, especially a romantic partner, the first question to ask yourself before speaking is 'What jersey am I wearing?'"
Think Before You Speak
Too often we neglect to do this simple and fairly obvious thing: thinking before we open our mouths to talk. Doing so can go a long way in a relationship of any kind, and especially a romantic one. "Research shows that when a person can pause for at least three seconds before they speak, it can radically affect the direction of a conversation," says Morgan. "It makes sense, since failing to pause before communicating increases the chances of saying something we don't really mean, thus creating conflict." Though it can be hard to hold back saying something in the heat of the moment, give it a try. You probably won't regret it!
Even if you stopped and thought about what you wanted to say before you go ahead to say it, try not to do it while your partner is in the middle of saying something. Instead of interrupting their flow, even if it feels as though they've been rambling for hours, Tammy Nelson, Ph.D., certified sex therapist and author of Getting the Sex You Want, suggests taking a breath, making eye contact, and giving your partner as much attention as you can while he or she is talking. "It is likely that they will stop talking sooner if they feel that you are hearing what they say," she adds.
Pretending you're listening is a good start, but it's only half the battle. Actually listening to what your partner has to say, even if you don't want to is an important communication tool. "If you want to increase your love life, increase your listening ears and then summarize what you think you heard your partner say so that he or she feels understood," suggests Morgan. "This is powerful because often times two people can hear the same phrase but mean completely different things." This technique, known as mirror share, helps both parties to get on the same page quicker while naturally increasing intimacy because the partner speaking knows the listener is engaged and seeking to understand their point of view, Morgan explains.