Everyone communicates. Many relationships are broken down or built up over communication.
But what defines good communication?
I’m Dr. Termary Hernández, a post-doc resident here at Syrona. As a therapist who specializes in couples counseling, I have observed common communication mistakes that can harm a relationship.
In this article, we’ll explore the 3 do’s and don’ts of communication in relationships, as well as actionable tips to help you improve the way you communicate with your partner.
Do Advanced Listening vs Beginner Listening
Active listening is awesome and a much underused skill. What is it? It is the ability to not only listen, but reflect back to the speaker what you understand about what they have said. “I think what you’re saying is…”.
Active listening is not an easy skill to learn but it is well worth it. It conveys empathy, respect, and is highly validating. And it can help to avoid misunderstandings that may lead to conflict.
Beginner Listening is a common way of communicating and can be fine when people understand each other, but in conflict, it isn’t enough.
A common example of beginner listening is jumping in with your point right after your partner stops speaking.
When you don’t let your partner know what you are taking away from what they are saying, misunderstandings and hurt feelings can keep conversations going around and around in useless circles.
Do use “I” Statements, DON’T Blame
“I” statements are like a super power. Listen to the difference between saying “You never listen to me” versus “I feel like I’m not being heard when I talk.”
This subtle but important shift doesn’t place blame- and thus it softens your partner’s need to get defensive and encourages a more collaborative dialogue.
Blaming others turns on a natural defensiveness in the person being blamed. Blaming is kind of like pointing your verbal finger at your partner- it’s accusatory, which hardly ever ends well.
So focus on how you feel about what your partner is doing rather than on what your partner is doing.
Do Provide Constructive Criticism, Don’t Give Destructive Criticism
Seeing your partner’s struggles through the lens of caring and kindness means you will give negative feedback in a way your partner can hear you. No one likes to be embarrassed or wrong.
In a loving partnership, you want your partner to be able to make mistakes, or be wrong, without fear of being shamed or attacked.
Constructive Criticism is both positive and supportive. It provides space for something good to say as well as the critique.
Destructive Criticism is a damaging way of giving feedback. Instead of trying to help your partner improve, this kind of negative feedback focuses on personal attributes rather than actions.
For example, calling someone “stupid” or using words like “never” and “always”. It is often done in a sarcastic, cutting, derogatory way that diminishes your partner rather than lifts them up.
This creates resentment, hurt feelings, and erodes trust and safety in a relationship.
6 Tips to Improve Communication In Your Relationship
Okay, those are three do’s and don’ts as it relates to communication. And now, I’d like to give you 6 quick tips to improve the communication in your relationship.
- Be an active listener. Take time to share what you understand about what your partner is trying to communicate.
- Practice empathy. Imagine how, if you saw things from their perspective, you could feel and think in a similar way.
- Be respectful. This is an attitude, not so much a skill. Defensiveness prevents respect.
- Keep communication open. Shutting down or avoiding builds distance, sharing builds connection and trust.
- Express gratitude and appreciation often. Keep the ratio of positive to negative comments high.
- Keep emotional temperatures in a safe zone. If the conversation becomes too heated, take a break to cool down and regroup.
Effective communication is more than just talking. It is the foundation of healthy and strong relationships.
It requires having an adult communication skill set, which includes accepting other perspectives, wanting to understand, caring about feelings, not just facts, and a desire to be respectful.
Sometimes emotional issues, past trauma, and low self esteem interfere with good communication. When emotions and triggers get involved, logic and reason go out the window.
Syrona Counseling Retreats are a good way to immerse you and your partner in the process of repairing the relationship ruptures poor communication creates.
If communication problems are sabotaging your relationship, don’t settle for living with hurt and resentment. Good, effective communication can be learned. Click the link below and schedule a consultation today.