by Lauren Roberts, Practicum Student-Therapist under the Supervision of Meredith Keller LPC, ACS
Talking has changed drastically in recent years: for many, the majority of ‘conversations’ are held through technology. These advances, however, can also have their faults. Have you ever felt like you were speaking to someone and it was like talking to a brick wall? Or maybe you go back and forth with each other over texting, but find that nothing gets resolved. When debating through text or email, words or phrases can easily be misinterpreted, causing an even bigger argument. Or maybe you do talk in person and think an issue has been resolved, only to find that it continues to annoy you. These are all signs of a decrease in effective communication.
In any relationship, whether you are married or dating, clear, effective communication is KEY. More importantly, understanding each other can deepen a connection you have to your partner. Many couples think they do not have a problem with the way they communicate, yet they repeatedly find themselves feeling frustrated during an exchange. Assumptions and misinterpretations can run rampant. There may be little listening going on as each person is busy formulating their response. Even something as simple as the phrasing of a question or tone of voice may prompt misunderstanding. In order to improve communication with your partner, you need to be ready to make the effort to do so and make sure that you have the proper skills and tools.
Here are four simple tools for clear, effective communication with your partner:
- Stop and listen, force yourself to hear
More often than not, we pretend to listen to our partners when they are talking to us. Maybe thoughts about the game are on your mind, or worrying about making dinner. Rarely do we give our partners our 100% undivided attention and really listen to what they are saying. Listening is more than just looking at them or saying "yeah I got it". It involves reflection and understanding of what the message is that your partner is trying to convey. Through effective listening, understanding is developed and you may be able to connect on a deeper level to your partner.
- Ask questions from a place of curiosity
Asking questions often shows interest in what the other has done or is doing. This can also show your partner that you care about their day or the issues they are bringing to you. Being actively engaged in the conversation will improve your communication skills, as well as listening skills.
- Talk it out in-person
For many, communicating has become focused around technology. Having serious arguments or conversations is being masked by a screen. Being able to talk to your partner in-person allows for a deeper connection and can prompt more understanding. It is especially needed when discussing important or emotional topics.
- Pay attention to non verbal signals
Being able to notice subtle signals that your partner gives off can aid communication significantly. For example, if you say something and your partner starts looking down and playing with their shirt or clenches their fists, this could be a clue as to what your partner may be thinking or feeling. But don’t assume. Instead, say that you notice what they’re doing and ask them to tell you what’s going on for them right now. Noticing and talking about non verbal signals can be used to deepen the conversation.
Using these four simple steps, you can vastly improve the communication between you and your partner. I challenge you to try these and see the influence they have on your relationship.
If you are having trouble communicating with your partner, we can assist you in developing effective communication styles that will reduce arguments and deepen connection. Please contact us at 908-246-3074, or email us at GetSupport@CouplesTherapyCenterOfNJ.com to schedule an appointment.