Let's go back to basics. How to improve communication in your relationship?
Updated: Aug 23, 2020
Has Covid-19 negatively effected your relationship?
Covid-19 has forced us all to re-evaluate routines, responsibilities and ways of life and this has left many of us struggling to cope.
As with all stresses, the current situation is a real test to our relationships and for those who were already experiencing difficulties this could have made things 100% worse.
Below is some helpful advice and solutions that can help you improve communication in your relationship and ease some of the tension you may be experiencing.
The word communication is something we hear a lot, we communicate everyday of our lives in some way or another but many of us don’t do it particularly well.
To communicate effectively we have to take account of who we are speaking to, the message we want to get across and the intended result.
Let’s look at a common example of communication: Scenario: You arrive home home after a busy day to find a sink full of dishes and your partner asleep on the sofa.
What do you do? There is a good chance you will be upset, so do you shout? Slam things around? Tell them how tired you are and that you don’t expect to come home to this? Or do you go quiet and say nothing, secretly seething inside?
There are hundreds of possibilities, but what I would like to do is show you how to improve your communication skills and effectively get across your feelings.
If this is a scenario you are faced with all of the time, you need to ask yourself, what result am I looking for here? What do I need to get across to my partner and what needs to change?
We all have bad days, we all have a right to be annoyed but the way we communicate that annoyance hugely affects whether it is dealt with and overcome or ignored and increased.
So let’s look at another example: Imagine you have to confront an employee who is consistently late for work. I am sure you will agree that when you are talking to an employee you can't speak to them the way you would speak to your partner. You have to choose your words correctly, adjust your body language and work to get your message across as professionally and fairly as possible. This may involves questioning your employee, finding out the reasons behind their lateness, inquiring as to whether there is anything you can do to support them etc. etc.
Now jump back to that sleeping partner on the couch, do they deserve the same level of communication? The answer is yes.
It doesn't matter if you have told them 100 times, the chances are you have probably told them in a way that has made them angry, defensive or upset. Just because they are your partner doesn't mean they deserve any less than anyone else.
If you adapt the way you communicate to fit the result you want there is a much better chance they will listen, and what's more, they might even change.
3 key ways to improve communication
Listen – We all love to talk, especially when we believe we’re right. When you are in a relationship, there are 2 people, 2 opinions, 2 ways of reasoning and 2 people who want to be right.
So how do you get your point across and achieve the result you want?
Well the fact is, you may not get the result you want, but you can probably reach a compromise that makes you both happy. Start by listening to your partner, a healthy conversation remains calm, controlled and allows space for each person to speak freely. This means giving them time to talk, avoid talking over them, turning away from them, standing over them or shaking your head while they speak. There is plenty of time for you both to have your say, what is vital here is that you both feel heard and if your partner feels listened to, they are much more likely to listen to you. Don’t lay blame - When you are faced with yet another argument and you feel the usual drain of energy, it’s really easy to lay blame. You may have tried to have the conversation with your partner a million times and find yourself never reaching a conclusion. You know you’re right, they’ve done.... this not you. Why won’t they listen? This line of thinking will get you nowhere, I reiterate:
"you both have your own opinions & perspectives"
Maybe you are right and your partner is not reacting as you think they should but the way you’re communicating is not helping to change that. Try to re-word what you are saying, take responsibility for your thoughts & feelings and try not to push these onto your partner.
So, instead of saying: “You never listen to me, you don't care about me, you just roll your eyes”.
Instead say: “When I try and talk to you, I don't feel like you hear me. I don't feel like you understand how upset that makes me. I would feel more supported if you could/would......
So the first example may well be how you feel, but by wording it like that you will cause your partner to go on the defensive, and, well, defend themselves. As humans when we feel attacked we go into fight or flight mode and rarely do we sit back, listen and evaluate.
By re wording what you want to say you’re still expressing your feelings and sending the same message but you’ve taken away the blame and thus stopped the attack.
Stop playing games and start talking - We sigh, we roll our eyes, we sit silently seething with negative thoughts and when our partners don't instantly get the message and know exactly why we are annoyed, we get worse.
Yes, its very frustrating when your partner does something that you have told them time and again annoys you, why aren't they remembering, why don't they know how bad it makes you feel?
It's so important to communicate clearly with your partner, they are not mind readers, they are human, so they forget and, like you, they may have others things distracting them. So tell them and allow them to make it right. Don't assume they should know, because whilst we would all like to be the only thing our partners think about, we aren't. It's not fair on them & it’s not fair on you because ultimately your needs will not be met and you will both suffer.
Adjusting our communication style, improves the impact of the messages we send and the reactions we get back.
A relationship should not be a war; it should not be a game of who is right or who is wrong it should be a mutual existence where you both work together to make each other happy.
Stay calm, find a good time to talk, explain your feelings clearly and discuss ways to avoid the issue in the future.
Time to try it out
Below are some example conversations and suggestions you may find useful:
What is a parent? Having children and becoming a family is an everyday occurrence with lot's of support and advice available to help you. Individually however, we all have our own idea of parenthood and what that looks like. It is all too common for people to travel through these ‘normal’ life transitions without actually stopping to take account of what it is we actually think, want and need from the experience. Remember there are two people involved, each with their own set of experiences that help to create their own expectations of what a parent and family should look like.
What is your communication like when it comes to being a parent? Have you ever asked your partner?
What do you expect from me as mother/father?
What do I expect from you?
What makes a happy childhood for you?
Who will educate our child?
What are your future expectations for our child?
What are your views on discipline?
The chances are you probably haven't, or not in a direct way anyway. Yet all too often we feel hurt, angry and let down when our partner does not complete our desires as we expect.
Scenario: When you start a new job all of these questions (where applicable) are answered and discussed at length. Your manager will have regular catch ups and reviews to ensure you are coping 'OK' and are happy with your responsibilities and they will enquire as to whether more help or support is needed. If we didn’t have this communication in our working life we would seriously consider leaving the role, or seeking external help.
So why when we embrace the very important job of parent, are we not having the same discussions? The current situation has caused chaos for many and thrown normal routines and patterns into the air, leaving us with a mess of responsibilities, expectations and confusion. Note the key words here ‘assumptions’ and ‘expectations’. We are all human, we all make assumptions and we all have expectations but similarly we can’t read minds, or at least the majority of us can’t. If you haven’t already, talk to your partner, have these discussions and allow each other the time and space to be heard. Whether your child is on the way, 1-year-old or 15 years old, it is never too late.
An Activity to improve Communication
Difficult conversations - No one enjoys having difficult conversations but unfortunately at times they need to be had. Below are a few things you can do to make these conversations easier to tackle.
Set a time limit for your conversation – if you know things may get heated agree to discuss the issues for a set amount of time then agree to stop the discussion and not discuss it again that day. 30 minutes -1 hr is usually a good time limit.
Set the topic of conversation – each person places 5 topics of conversation into a hat/bowl etc. then you take turns to pull out a topic and agree to discuss it for 5 minutes each. Move on to the next topic afterwards. You can do this with any number of topics but be smart, start off with easier topics, don’t pick the areas you know will cause the most chaos or upset straight away, these can be saved for later discussions once the line of communication is stronger.
Set reasonable time frames – don’t expect to discuss all of your issues in one sitting, you may wish to add 2 topics each at first. Once you have completed that you can schedule a time to repeat the activity another day. Discussions of any kind can be draining and as we get tired we get more irritable and less likely to be able to communicate effectively so keep it short, no longer than an hour and if things get heated agree to stop for the day.
Communication is something many of us take for granted as is the love of our nearest and dearest. Yet many of us don't communicate properly and over time this can eat away at the bonds of our relationships. Today I have covered some key elements of communication that are really important in improving the communication in your relationships to allow you to discuss difficult issues and solve smaller problems that are causing you stress and unhappiness. Using the above activity can help you in confronting your problems in a productive way and adjusting your communication style can hopefully enhance your relationship in the ways you want.