In a relationship, effective communication is the communication between two close persons wherein the intended message is successfully passed across or delivered, received, and understood by the other partner.
I am sure you have heard this saying before: communication is the key 🔑 to any relationship. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. I think it is really easy to tell people that communication is important in a healthy relationship, but it is not so easy to explain how to communicate. And if we are never taught how to use this key, we will never be able to open the door to healthy communication.
Communication is defined as a lot of things, but my favorite definition includes “the successful communication or exchange of ideas and feelings”. I always say that I am a great speaker, but I must also be an equally great listener to be a great communicator. Communication is about expressing yourself in a healthy way, listening to your partner when he or she is doing the same thing, and really listening and recording what the other person has to say.
Below are 5 tips for better communication in your relationship:
1. Ask open questions
Communication is not just about talking about each other’s days and saying what you had for lunch. It is about going into depth and getting to know that person as well as possible. It is not always easy to go into depth, especially for those who have never felt comfortable talking about their feelings. And it is not necessary to have every conversation from heart to heart.
There are ways to do this without putting pressure on your S.O. to reveal his deepest secrets. For example, instead of asking yes or no questions like “Did you have a good day?”, try asking more open questions like “How was your day? Yes, they can answer with a short non-answer (“good”, “good”, “right away”), but open questions give them the opportunity to tell more if they wish. Remember that not everyone opens up very easily. Be patient with your partner when they are not sharing all the time. We set limits to our feelings, and the limits are different for everyone. So be careful and respectful of their emotional boundaries, and they should be equally careful and respectful of yours.
The more you get to know your S.O. on a deeper level, the more open and honest you can ultimately be with each other. And honesty creates trust, which are two very important pillars of a healthy relationship (note: communication is another super important pillar!).
2. Pick up nonverbal keywords
If your partner says, “My day was fine,” but his tone of voice sounds irritated, angry, or upset, he may feel something else, but he is not yet ready to communicate. Communication is not only about the words we say, but also about how we say them. Our tone and attitude reveal much more than just the words that come out of our mouth. And it’s honestly an ability to be able to pick up on these non-verbal cues. Look at your S.O.’s facial expression, her hands (are they shaking?), her body language (are they making eye contact? Are her arms crossed?) and listen to her tone of voice.
3. Do not try to read their thoughts.
Sometimes just by looking at someone, you can tell what they might be feeling. It is not always easy to do this, and let’s face it: as much as we want to be mind readers, we are not, and shouldn’t have to be. So if you are not sure how your partner feels, ask him.
If you are the one who holds things in place and expects your partner to read your thoughts, take a moment to appreciate the fact that your partner is making an effort by asking you what is going on rather than ignoring the problem. Do your best to let them know how you feel when you are ready to talk openly about it. It is not healthy to say that you are fine when you are not fine and then get angry with your partner because he hasn’t found out. Do your best, to be honest about how you feel and try to express it in a healthy way before it gets to the point where it blows up and someone says something they regret. Being direct is always better than being passively aggressive.
If your partner is the one who is guilty of passive aggressiveness, try to let him know that it is not really helpful for either of you if he is not honest about his feelings. Of course it is great if we know each other so well that we can practically read each other’s minds and know exactly what to say at the right moment, but we are human and may sometimes make mistakes or miss clues that seem obvious to our partner, or vice versa. It is important that you both make an effort to understand each other better, and that you also have patience with each other.
4. Conversations are a two-way street
When communicating with your partner, pay attention to how often you say “I”, “you” or “we”. If the conversation is mainly about yourself, it is not really a conversation. Remember to focus it back on your S.O. and ask questions about how he feels, what he thinks, and what is going on with him. If you find that you often say “you”, what is the context? Do you point your finger at others and hold them responsible?
Relationships are about both people, and everyone should have an equal say about things. Both people must feel heard and be able to share what is on their minds. If you feel that your partner is taking over the conversation and you are not getting your say, it is important to let him or her know. They may not be aware that they are dominating the conversation. Conversations are like a game of tennis; it should flow naturally back and forth for each person.
5. Set aside the time to speak
My partner and I recently moved in together and we were warned by virtually everyone that it is a “make-or-break” situation for couples. We were nervous, but we both had an arrogant attitude of “we get it”. We were always great at communicating openly and honestly with each other. We had no idea how living together would change the way we had to communicate with each other, but it certainly did.
During the first three weeks together, we argued constantly. We were so annoyed by the bickering (and not by the thing we were actually arguing about) that we ended up arguing that we were arguing! Do you already have a headache? Yes, we had headaches for about three weeks. Because we’re not really the couple, we ended up sitting down and talking about it.
We had to learn a completely new way of being together, since we now share the same room. We talked about the things that were important to us (like how we should spend our money) and the things that didn’t matter in the end (who takes out the garbage). Talking about these things was crucial, because we would never have known what was really important to the other person if we hadn’t sat down to discuss it.
In the end, we learned that our bickering was not about the actual things we were arguing about, but rather about not feeling heard or appreciated. From that day on, we decided to have what we call “Bae Sesh”, a weekly “session” where we took an hour to express our opinions in a non-judgmental space. This way we can feel heard and respected.
Of course, our one-hour “Bae Sesh” might not work for everyone, but it definitely works for us. Through our Bae Sesh sessions, we were able to avoid major conflicts, actively listen to each other, and feel more connected and respected through our Bae Sesh sessions. We may talk every day, but since we’re both so busy with work and life, it’s nice to take time for something deeper.
6. Tell them what you need from them
Sometimes I just want to let air out and feel confirmed by my partner supporting me by saying: “Yes, that really sucks, I’m sorry! Sometimes I want some advice. As I said before, none of us are mind readers, so it is important that you try to keep your partner informed so that you are on the same page. If you say something beforehand like “I need to blow off steam now and I’m not looking for advice, I just need your support” or “I really need your advice in this situation”, they will know exactly what you need at that moment.
Saying directly what you need can also alleviate some of the miscommunication or stress in a particular situation. If we inform them in time, we may be able to avoid unnecessary disagreements caused by miscommunication.
Communication is a skill
Ultimately, communication is a skill, which means that there is always room for improvement. Find out together with your partner how to maintain healthy communication and stay on the same level. Be as honest, direct, friendly, and attentive as you can. Be it with a Bae Sesh or simply by making more effort to open up to each other.