Managing relationships is hard. And sometimes it can feel even harder with our partners. But why do we struggle to communicate with the people that we’re closest with? Why do we have a hard time saying the things that we really feel in a productive way?
There are a myriad of reasons. Sometimes there are a lot of emotions involved. Sometimes family life gets in the way, or the timing never seems right. Sometimes (or often!) you’re both tired. Whatever the reason (or reasons), many of us feel that struggle to effectively communicate.
So what is healthy communication? And how can we become better communicators with our partners?
What is Healthy Communication
While healthy communication can vary inside relationships, in generally the ability to convey or share emotions, feelings, sentiments, needs and wants without offering or receiving hateful or undesirable responses. Sometimes this might be agreeing to disagree. But in every situation the communication is received with a welcoming spirit.
How to Be a Better Communicator with Your Partner
Being a good communicator involves using healthy communication techniques.
Process Your Own Feelings First
Before attempting to communicate something difficult or emotional, it’s important to process your own feelings first. Sometimes we go into a discussion without really understanding how we’re feeling or the outcomes we’re looking for. Or we start a conversation when we’re feeling angry or upset. And that will leave you open to hurt or to hurting your partner.
Instead, process your own feelings first. Enter into the conversation when you and your partner are both calm.
Use I statements
Instead of focusing on what the other person has done or said, focus on yourself – on how you think and feel. To do this it helps to use ‘I’ statements.
So, instead of saying, ‘You work too much’, you could say, ‘I feel hurt when you’re always focused on your work’. This is less blame focused and more feelings focused – your own feelings. And it’s a better way of opening up a healthy conversation.
Mind Reading is Out
Don’t try to read your partner’s mind. And don’t expect them to read yours either. If you want to have good, healthy communication you need to start by expressing your feelings, and by asking your partner to express theirs. Expecting someone to know what you’re thinking, no matter how long you’ve been in a relationship, is simply too much to ask. It doesn’t matter how well you know each other. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes or miss cues sometimes.
Healthy communication is not about winning. But sometimes couples enter into conversations as though they’re competitions they need to win. Even when you don’t agree with your partner, it’s important to listen. Try to understand why they feel like they do. Actively take in their side of the story.
If both of you are doing this, then you’ll both feel heard and validated even when you aren’t in complete agreement.
Compromise to Reach Resolution
Your goal is to resolve the issue without it becoming a competition. And that means that you will more than likely need to compromise. Whether it’s about financial decisions, or child-rearing, you should both leave the conversation feeling like you’ve reached at least some level of resolution. If you can accomplish this, you’ll both feel stronger and more connected.
Implement Regular Check Ins
Effective communication involves understanding your partner. And to understand them you need to understand how they’re feeling. Checking in regularly throughout the day lets you hear what’s going on, how their day is going and how they’re feeling generally. This will give you insight into the best time to speak to your partner when something does come up. But more importantly, it will also build connection which is fantastic for communication.
A quick text, a short phone call, an email asking about the day – those are all great ways to check in.
Remember, Communication is a Skill
At the end of the day, good communication is a skill. And it takes practice to do it well. But effective communication will help you resolve problems, stay on the same page and feel more connected, which is great for your relationship.
Author: Di O’Malley – Founder and Managing Director of Young Minds Health and Development Network, and Counselling Psychologist.
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