3 Tips to Communicate Better with Your Partner
When communication is not going well, couples end up in conflict or avoidance of conflict and therefore avoidance of each other. Over time, couples become discouraged and believe that they are stuck with their bad communication habits.
It can feel like a stubborn knot, unable to tell where to start to untangle it. Many people decide to omit sharing their thoughts and feelings in an effort to protect the relationship from a communication blunder.
While this idea is helpful in avoiding daily hiccups it can lead to much larger problems down the line. Since communicating well requires two people, it is easy to focus on your partner’s bad communication habits instead of finding ways to improve things from your side.
However, you only have the power to change how you communicate with your partner, and focusing on what you bring to the table will yield the best results.
Here are 3 communication tips that will help you make a difference in your communication with your partner and will also have an impact on how they communicate with you.
Tip #1: Summarize What You Heard Your Partner Say to You.
This is called reflective listening and will help minimize miscommunication. When you summarize what you think your partner said to you and they confirm you got it correct, you avoid misunderstandings.
If you summarized what you heard your partner say and they tell you that you missed some or all of their message, this provides an opportunity for them to restate their message and clarify what they intended you to hear. It can also be helpful to ask your partner to summarize what they heard you say to ensure that your intended message has been received.
Tip #2: Ask Questions Out of Curiosity.
It is easy to quickly jump to conclusions and start making statements to your partner about how you know they meant this or feel that way, etc. The reality is that you don’t know how your partner feels or what they are saying to themselves.
Asking questions is a way of showing respect and acknowledging that you are not the expert on what your partner thinks or feels. Asking them questions from a curious place will help them to feel heard and understood. And you are more likely to get the same courtesy in return.
Tip #3: If Your Partner Increases the Intensity, Intentionally Lower Your Intensity.
We have a tendency to mirror the intensity of the people around us. We even mirror body language. When a person becomes frustrated with their partner (or anyone for that matter) they will begin to show signs of distress that are noticeable but also easily avoidable.
Things like heavy sighs, avoiding eye contact, dramatically shifting their body position, or cutting you off are all ways that people tell that they’re becoming frustrated. Work to improve your awareness of your partners “tells” and see if you can intentionally lower your intensity in response.
An example of lowering your intensity would be to lean in, lower the volume of your voice, slow your speech down, and state that your intention is to have the conversation go well. Sometimes in response to a person lowering their intensity a person will make a move to double down and really increase the intensity, this is the time to stay the course and keep your intensity low.
Remember that challenges in communicating are a lot like a knot that has developed over time. It has to be backed out of, twisted and turned, and carefully handled in order to become untangled.
The way a couple communicates can be improved by utilizing these techniques. Extending forgiveness and grace when it doesn’t go the way you wanted will help you to stay the course.
If you find that you have tried these techniques and you continue to get stuck, or it feels like the knot is being pulled tighter instead of loosened, click the link below to schedule an appointment today! Our therapists are here to help.
– Megan Humphreys, Marriage & Family Therapist