How to solve communication problems in a relationship sometimes is tough.Communication is hard work. That’s why it’s the key to any healthy relationship. If you want to communicate better in a relationship, then you have to not only know how to state your ideas but to be able to really listen to your partner. If you want to know how to communicate better in a relationship, just follow these steps.
Method 1 of 3:
Making Your Case
Learn to say what you mean. We’ve heard the jokes about intent versus actual dialogue — when she says “this” she really means that — or, “what he’s really trying to tell you is…” Those jokes are funny because of how often they’re true. Sometimes we expect our partner to understand our hidden meanings, but wishing or relying on this isn’t fair or effective. Instead, lay out your thoughts directly.
When you make your case, provide concrete examples of what you mean so your words make more sense. Don’t just say, “I feel like you haven’t done your share around the house…” Instead, say, “I’ve had to do the dishes every night for the last two weeks…”
Speak slowly enough for your partner to understand you. Don’t just blurt out all of your angry feelings or he or she won’t be able to follow your logic.
Remember that there’s no prize for speaking for as long as you can. Hit all of the key points you want to hit, but don’t just keep talking and talking until your partner is overwhelmed.
Directly laying out your thoughts eliminates resentment and confusion about your motives. Instead of offering alternatives to your boyfriend’s plans to bring you to a party, tell him the truth: that you just don’t want to face all those people after a tough week at work, followed by, “I’m sorry to say that I’m just not in a party mood tonight.”
Use “I” or “me” statements. Don’t start an argument off by accusing your partner of making a mistake. If you say, “You always…” or “You never…” then your partner’s guard will be up and he’ll be less likely to listen to your perspective. Instead, say something like, “I’ve noticed that…” or “Lately, I’ve been feeling like…” Making the discussion centered around your feelings will make your partner feel less like he’s being castigated and more like he’s part of a productive discussion.
Even saying, “Lately, I’ve been feeling a little neglected” sounds more conciliatory than “You’ve been neglecting me.”
Though you’ll be essentially saying the same thing through the “I” statements, this soft-blow delivery will make your partner less defensive and more likely to communicate openly.
Keep as calm as you can. Though you may not be able to be as cool as a cucumber when you and your partner are in the middle of a heated discussion, the calmer you are, the more easily you will be able to express your feelings. So, if you’re feeling furious in the middle of a conversation, or even livid before you bring up the issue, take a breather until you feel calm enough to start a productive discussion.
Speak in a slow, even tone to articulate your ideas.
Don’t talk over your partner. This will only make you more angry.
Take deep breaths. Don’t get hysterical in the middle of an argument.
Maintain positive body language. Having positive body language can help set a positive tone to the discussion. Look your partner in the eyes and turn your body to him. You can use your arms to gesture, but don’t move them so wildly that you start getting out of control. Don’t cross your arms over your chest or your partner will feel that you are already closed off to what he has to say.
Don’t fidget with the objects around you, unless this helps you get out some nervous energy.
Project your ideas with confidence. This doesn’t mean that you should walk into the discussion like you’re going into a business meeting. Don’t march into the room, shake your partner’s hand, and make your case. Instead, project confidence by acting as comfortable as you can with the situation. Smile from time to time, speak carefully, and don’t hesitate, ask too many questions, or sound uncertain of what you have to say. If your partner doubts your commitment to your feelings, he won’t take you as seriously.
The more confident you are, the less likely you are to get scared off or to be frazzled. This will help you articulate your ideas.
Have a game plan before you begin. This is an incredibly important point. Don’t just jump into an argument when you least expect it, and start telling your partner the fifteen things he or she has been doing wrong. Even if you’re upset or hurt for a variety of reasons, it’s important to focus on the main point you want to make, and to think about what result you want to achieve from the conversation; if your only goal is to make your partner feel bad about what he or she has done, then you should give it more thought before you begin.
Part of the plan should be when to have the discussion. Bringing up a rational argument in an inopportune time, such as at a family picnic or in the middle of an important sporting event on TV, can make your entire point null and void.
Think about what specific examples you’ll use to state your case. Let’s say you want your partner to be a better listener. Can you think of two or three times when he didn’t listen and it really hurt you? Don’t overwhelm him or her with negative criticism, but use concrete evidence to get the attention you need.
Remember what your goal is — is it to show your partner why you’re been hurt, to bring up an important conflict and find a compromise that will make you both happy, or to discuss how you can deal with stress as a couple? Keeping your goal in the back of your mind will help keep you on track.
Method 2 of 3:
Listening to Your Partner
Put yourself in your partner’s place. Use the power of imagination to fully envision what your partner’s perspective might be in a given situation. Be aware that there might be factors you don’t know about. When he or she is talking, putting yourself in his shoes can help you understand why your behavior, or the situation at hand, may be frustrating for him. When you’re angry or upset, it’s hard to see past your side of the argument, but this technique can actually help you reach a resolution faster.
Empathy can usually help you solve a problem in your relationship. Emphasizing that you’re trying to be understanding by saying, “I know you must be feeling upset because…” or “I know you’ve had a hard week at work…” can help your partner realize you’re really listening with their point of view as the framework.
Putting yourself in your partner’s place can help you validate his feelings and let him know that you understand his struggles and honor his feelings.
Allow your partner the freedom to work through internal conflicts. Though it’s great to be able to talk out all of your frustration, sometimes your partner is still working out his thoughts and feelings and needs some time to sort through feelings during alone time. Giving him space and time to reflect can prevent him from jumping into an argument and saying something he regrets later. There’s a fine line between encouraging a conversation and pushing your partner before he’s ready to talk and share.
Just saying, “I’m here when you need to talk,” can make your partner feel like you care without smothering him.
Give him or her your full attention. Know the cues that your partner wants to talk — and that it’s serious. When he or she wants to talk, you should turn off the TV, put away your work, hide your phone, and do everything you can to give your partner your full attention. If you’re multi-tasking or distracted, then he or she will probably become even more frustrated. If you’re really in the middle of something, ask if you can have just a few minutes to wrap it up so you’re less distracted when the time comes.
Maintaining eye contact instead of looking around for other things that may hold your interest can also help your partner feel like you’re really listening.
Let him or her finish, but nod your head or say, “I understand how you feel…” from time to time to stay connected.
Let them finish. Though they may say something completely outrageous or something that you feel like you just have to correct, don’t jump in and interrupt them in the middle of their thoughts and feelings. Make a mental note of any point you feel you need to address later, but let your partner say everything they need to say. When they’re done, it’ll be your turn and you can delve into to these points one by one or choose to address them later, in a separate moment.
This may seem nearly impossible when you feel like you just have to jump in then and there and make a counter-argument, but your partner will feel much better once he gets everything off his chest.
Mind the gap. When you’re listening to your partner, you should know that you don’t have to accept or understand everything he has to say. No matter how in sync you are, how similar you are, and how aligned your goals are, there will be times when you just don’t see eye to eye on a situation, no matter how hard you both try to express your feelings. And that’s okay – being aware of the gap between your understanding of the situation and your partner’s will make you more receptive to what he has to say.
Being aware of this discrepancy will help you get less frustrated when you’re just not getting each other.
Method 3 of 3:
Building a Strong Foundation
Maintain intimacy. This doesn’t mean that you should hop into bed with your partner every chance you get to make up after fighting. It does mean that you should be intimate as much as you can, whether it means cuddling, carresing each other and laughing about nothing, or just spending time on the couch holding hands and watching your favorite TV shows. Make time for intimacy at least a few times a week, no matter how busy you are — this will help you when the time comes to talk about the difficult stuff.
Being intimate has a more significant meaning than being physical. It’s about seeing into another person and trying to create a space in your mind for your partner’s words, body language, or actions.
Learn to recognize when your partner is upset. Sure, it would be great if your partner let you know every time something important was really troubling him. However, that’s rarely the case. If you want to build a solid foundation for communication, then you have to start recognizing the non-verbal or verbal cues that let you know your partner is upset. Get to know your partner’s signs and be comfortable with saying, “Hey, you look upset. Is something bothering you?” He might not always want to talk, but making him aware that you know he’s upset will make him feel more valued.
Every person will demonstrate being bothered differently – from staying conspicuously quiet, saying he’s not hungry, making passive-aggressive comments, or complaining about something minor when something major is really on his mind.
This doesn’t mean that you should say, “Hey, what’s wrong?” if your partner isn’t acting 100% happy. Maybe he or she is just tired after a long day of work. Recognizing the signs and knowing when your partner is truly okay is different from asking him if he’s okay on a daily basis. This could get annoying.
Sometimes body language can convey more than actual words.
If you are caught in a misunderstanding, it’s important to establish your willingness to communicate. You might delve into true feelings with a process similar to: “I’m trying to understand, but I’m not getting there. Am I doing something to upset you?” “No.” “Is someone else doing something to upset you?” “No.” “Are you just upset?” “Yes.” “With me?” “No. Not really.” You’re narrowing it down. It seems like a lot of effort, but it may be worth it in the end.
Be proactive. You don’t have to have a fight over every little thing that is bothering you, but you should be able to bring up the tough problems when the time comes. Don’t get passive-aggressive and let your anger boil up, or you’ll find yourself having a full-blown fight at an inopportune moment. Learn to bring up the big questions so you can be comforted when you find a compromise, instead of letting yourself simmer at or near the boiling point.
Both members of the relationship can offer solutions until you find one that is mutually acceptable. A true compromise is one in which both partners feel that their thoughts and feelings are addressed while adhering to real constraints: feasibility, time, cost, etc.
Lighten up. Find time together to just have fun. If you spend all of your time working and then fighting about your problems, you won’t enjoy your relationship very much. If you store up a lot of points in your “fun bank,” and have lots of positive feelings and memories with your partner, you’ll be less likely to explode in the middle of an argument. Building a solid foundation of mutual love and happiness will help you through the hard times.
Laugh together. Whether you’re making corny jokes, watching a comedy, or just cracking up over nothing, laughing will really help you enjoy your relationship more and prepare for the difficult times.
Realize when a conversation is no longer productive. If you’re both shouting, hurting each other, and not getting anywhere, then, yeah, the conversation is no longer productive. There’s no need to keep fighting if you’re just making things worse. Instead, take a breath, tell your partner that you should both calm down and pick up the conversation at another time. This is a mature way to keep your communication from getting out of control.
Just say, “I think this topic is really important to both of us, but we should return to it when we’re both more calm and our thoughts are more settled.”
Don’t walk away by slamming doors or shouting hurtful things. Leave on a positive note, even if you’re still feeling angry.
Sometimes, you may just be arguing about nothing to get a reaction out of each other. If this is the case, then point it out. Say, “What are we even fighting about?” This can help you both take a step back and take stock of the situation.
Learn to compromise. In any good relationship, being happy should always be more important than being right. Don’t spend all of your time trying to prove that you’re right or fighting to get your way, or your romance will fizzle. Instead, work on finding a productive solution that can make both of you reasonably happy. This is much better for your relationship long term and will help you communicate your true needs.
Take turns. One person shouldn’t always get his or her way.
Making a pros and cons list can sometimes help you reach a solution in a more logical and less heated way.
Sometimes, when you’re having an argument, it’s important to consider which person really cares more. This can help you figure out how to address the situation. If something is really important to you, but only sort of important to your partner, let it be known.
Don’t forget to appreciate each other. If you want to keep up a healthy stream of communication, then you and your partner have to take the time to express your appreciation for one another’s recent actions, send each other sweet notes, tell each other what you love about each other, and to make time to do the things you love. A weekly date night, and as many nightly dinners as you can manage can really help you enjoy each other’s company and get used to talking to each other in a positive way. This, in turn, will make it easier for you to have an argument that is constructive when the time comes.
In any healthy relationship, you should give your partner much more positive than negative feedback. Specifically, if you feel like he’s doing everything right, let him know!