Want a better relationship? Learn to communicate effectively

It has often been said that communication is one of the key elements of a healthy and successful relationship. Yet not everyone understands what exactly good communication is and how it can be achieved. We give you advice that will make you a better communicator and enhance your relationship.

There is no doubt that communication is of great importance in any relationship. You cannot have a relationship without communicating. It is one of the things that brings two people together and keeps them together. Communication involves how we express our thoughts, ideas and feelings to others. It allows two people to share their interests, aspirations and concerns. There are several aspects of communication that couples need to be aware of in order to improve the way they relate with each other.

UNDERSTAND DIFFERENT COMMUNICATION STYLES

Communication styles differ between individuals and also between men and women. It’s necessary that a couple know this. Women are generally known to be more expressive about their feelings and in most cases don’t feel the need to hide their emotions or weaknesses. Men on the other hand have been taught to be strong, never shed a tear or show that they are incapable. In most cases, when faced with a problem, they tend to withdraw and think over their problems in solitude while finding solutions to them.

In order to relate well and avoid relationship issues and conflicts, both need to understand and improve upon their communication styles as well as each other’s. Women should learn not to take it personally when men do not share their problems with them, and men should learn how to listen more and empathize with their partners instead of focusing on giving solutions.

EXPRESS YOURSELF AND COMMUNICATE CLEARLY 

Studies have shown that people in loving, supported relationships generally feel happier and have fewer health problems. It’s also been said that a problem shared is a problem half solved. Honest, direct communication is a key part of any relationship. When a couple is comfortable expressing their needs, fears and desires, their trust with each other is strengthened.

Talk to each other. No matter how well you know and love each other, you cannot read each other’s mind. It’s essential to communicate clearly so that misunderstandings that may cause hurt, anger or confusion are avoided. Before saying something to your partner, think about what you want to say and what you want to communicate by saying it. Be clear about your message so your partner understands exactly what you’re trying to say. Talk about what you want and feel. Use ‘I’ statements such as ‘I need’, ‘I want’ and ‘I feel’. Also regularly share positive feelings with your partner, such as what you appreciate and admire about them, and how important they are to you.

LISTEN TO COMMUNICATE

Listening is a critical part of effective communication. It encourages your partner to talk openly and honestly. Good listening tips include keeping comfortable eye contact, leaning towards your partner and making gestures to indicate interest and concern, having a fairly relaxed posture with your arms and legs uncrossed, facing your partner and ensuring that you’re on the same level to avoid looking up to or down on your partner. Show genuine attention and interest in what your partner is saying. Avoid distractions and interrupting when your partner is talking.

NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION

Sometimes a lot is said without speaking. Communication can be through eye contact, body posture, tone of voice and facial expressions. At times a hug is enough to communicate love and concern. Our non-verbal communication usually conveys a message, whether or not we are aware of it. If our feelings don’t fit with our words, it is often the non- verbal communication that gets heard and believed. Let your body language reflect what you are saying. Also familiarise yourself with your partner’s non verbal communication as people express and receive nonverbal messages in different ways and with different interpretations.

 COMMUNICATION CAN BE IMPROVED

You’re not stuck at your current state of communication. Open and clear communication can be learned and improved. To improve the way you communicate, you and your partner can ask yourselves the following questions and share your responses.

What brings you happiness and feelings of connection?

What things don’t you talk about and what stops you talking about them?

What causes conflict between you and your partner?

What causes you disappointment and pain?

How would you like your communication with your partner to be different? If both of you are open to improving the way you communicate, you can enjoy a more fulfilling relationship.

NEVER STOP COMMUNICATING

When people stop communicating well, they stop relating well. Various life changes and stress also end up taking a huge toll on the relationship. When you both make a deliberate effort to remain in constant communication with one another, you remain connected, maintain a strong bond, and make it easier to work through whatever problems you face.

Tips for effective communication

Find ways to be honest, express your feelings, and share ideas.

Share your daily life with your partner. Share those things in your life that are mildly interesting, funny, sad, or affect you in some way.

Share your problems. This serves to deepen and strengthen relationships and communication within them.

Refrain from insults, put-downs, and expressions of disgust, and avoid generalisations.

Boost each other’s self-esteem and self-confidence by affirming one another and focusing on positive traits.

Avoid always seeking to be right. You may feel like a winner but it’s the relationship that loses.

September2012