Many challenges in relationships are the result of poor communication. Almost every area of your relationship can be improved by better communication.
Try thinking of your closest relationships. When is the last time you were able to resolve a conflict without communication? How about budgeting, sharing housework or building sexual intimacy? What if you have kids and need to work through issues of parenting? The quality of your communication can either help or hurt your relationship in each of these areas.
Our words can be powerful so it is worth the effort to try to send our message in a way that can strengthen our relationship. When you are ready to improve your communication there are some basics you may want to consider.
Have you ever ended a conversation and thought, “I don’t think I said what I meant to say.” To communicate better in a relationship, it helps to take time to plan and practice what you want to say. This means putting your ideas into a clear, quick message that is more likely to get through in conversation. When you can’t plan in advance, consider asking for time to gather your thoughts to avoid saying something you regret. When you can tell yourself in a few words what you want to say, you will have far more confidence going into a discussion and a greater chance at clarity. An actor practices before a performance even when someone around them can help with forgotten lines; imagine how much you could benefit from practicing when you are the only one who knows what you’re trying to say.
To improve communication in a relationship, you also need to know about the person hearing your message. You can schedule important conversations around times they think more clearly (i.e. later in the day for a night owl). When you are bringing up a difficult topic, surround your message with genuine encouragement. You can also consider whether the message needs to be set aside. Check in with a person to see whether they are able to listen or can plan to talk later. If they have just had a terrible day, ask yourself, “Can this wait for a better time and place?” Take ownership for how your message may impact the person and plan accordingly.
Body language and tone of voice are important parts of communication. Although you must consider your message and the hearer, all this can be derailed if you use hand gestures that look aggressive or raise your voice around a quiet person. Some people believe that civil conversation involves little eye-contact, quiet voices, and minimal hand-movement; there are some people who believe that an important message needs a passionate voice with plenty of body movement. These gestures impact what people hear us saying so we need to consider how our hearer perceives our body language. Our non-verbal messages could cause the hearer to misunderstand but, if used well, they can strengthen our message.
In relationships, we are constantly communicating some message. Even the silent treatment says something.