7 Tips on How to Communicate Effectively in a Relationship
It’s not every couple who knows how to communicate effectively in a relationship. Does this sound familiar?
You: “We need to talk.”
Him: “What the #%^& did I do this time?”
You: “You never listen!”
If this is a typical communication session in your relationship, then this video and article are perfect for you because I’m going to teach you how to communicate effectively in a relationship!
Introduction: How to Communicate Effectively in a Relationship
Having good communication in a healthy relationship is essentially having a partner who really talks to you, who is a good listener and a good friend, who likes and appreciates you for who you are, and does his part to make the relationship work.
If you don’t feel like you have that right now (or if you think you’re the problem in the communication equation), we’ll get into a few strategies on how to communicate effectively in a relationship in just a moment.
But before I get into these strategies, I want to say one thing: it is entirely possible to overcommunicate in a relationship. Frankly, I am guilty of overcommunicating in relationships. When I look back at past relationships — even the one I’m in right now — I see that I always want to talk about every little thing. I always thought that was a good quality of mine, but I’ve learned that in life and in relationships, you need to choose your battles, and quite frankly, bite your tongue sometimes.
You know what I mean. You start picking apart something he did or said, and before you know it, it’s blown up into a huge argument. That wasn’t your intention. So decide whether it’s necessary to talk about every tiny detail of your relationship. I’m betting not.
My big relationship tip of the year is this: Don’t let the little things ruin a relationship by constantly dwelling on them, and don’t let the big things ruin a relationship by NOT communicating them.
Got it? Great. Let’s dive into those tips on how to communicate effectively in a relationship.
1. Listen to Understand vs. Listen to Respond
We are all guilty of this, so don’t feel bad if you realize you’re usually listening to respond. When you listen to respond, you’re not really listening…you’re busy thinking about what you want to say when he’s done. Maybe you’re coming up with your argument to his point, or want to tell a story.
Do you see a theme here? When you listen to respond, you’re being self-centered and not a good partner. You don’t really care what he’s saying, and believe me: he picks up on that.
On the other hand, listening to understand means that you do care what he’s saying, and you prioritize hearing him. Trust me: this is the kind of listening you need if you want to communicate effectively in a relationship.
2. Explain Your Understanding Rather Than Saying, “Yes, I Understand”
“WTF, Adam. I thought telling my boyfriend that I understand him was a good thing!”
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but if you want to be a better communicator in your relationship, try this technique instead.
After he tells you something, say to him, “What I hear you saying is…” and say, in your own words, what you heard him say.
This has a couple of benefits. First, it reassures him that you’re truly listening. But it also clarifies what you think you heard. If you use this technique and you got it wrong, he can better explain what he was thinking.
Let’s try it, shall we?
You: “What I hear you saying, Adam, is that if I say back to him what he said, then our communication will be stronger.”
3. Stay Solution-Oriented Rather Than Problem-Oriented
In my many years of coaching people in relationships, I’ve seen a lot of communication issues that simply exist because one or both people in the relationship is focused on the problem rather than coming up with potential ideas to solve the problem.
So let’s say you’re sitting down with your boyfriend to express the fact that you feel he’s drinking too much. You don’t want to dwell on that problem, or he’ll feel like you’re attacking him, and he’ll get defensive. You’ll get nowhere like this.
Instead, communicate your ideas for solutions with tentativeness. Maybe something like, “Well, perhaps we could try…” Or “What if I did . . . and you did . . .”
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By offering solutions softly rather than as a “You need to stop drinking now!” you communicate that you care about helping him or the two of you find a solution to something that is blocking your relationship.
4. Shut Off Your Devices
There is nothing more offensive than opening your heart up while someone’s checking Snapchat or a phone call comes in.
It’s common courtesy, ladies. Put it on silent. Leave it in your purse. Turn it off.
In a study by the University of Texas at Austin, students were observed while taking a test. They were asked to put their phones on silent. Some were asked to leave the phones in another room, while others had their phones near them. Those who had their phones in another room did significantly better on the test.
What is my point? Having your phone near you, even if it’s on silent, is distracting. You’re trying to communicate effectively in your relationship, so that means prioritizing listening to what your man has to say.
5. Use the Word “I” to Express How You Feel, Rather Than “You”
I’ve seen this a lot and even been guilty of it myself. Especially in an argument, it’s easy to start using “you” when talking to your boyfriend. This is a slippery slope.
“You always go out with your friends.”
“You never do the laundry.”
“You say things to hurt me.”
Unfortunately, talking in terms of “you” puts him on the defensive. He feels like you’re criticizing him, and he’s less likely to want to make changes to improve the relationship.
On the other hand, if you speak in terms of how you’re feeling, using “I,” you’re communicating your own emotions and reactions, not criticizing his behavior.
“I feel like we haven’t spent a lot of time together lately.”
“I’ve been getting overwhelmed with how many chores I have to do.”
“I was hurt by what you said to me.”
You can see that these versions tackle the same issues, but in a much softer way, and one that he’ll be eager to help fix.
Bonus: avoid absolute language. When you use words like “always” and “never,” first of all, you’re exaggerating, but you’re also setting the stage for an argument. He doesn’t always go out with his friends, though it may feel like it!
6. Don’t Interrupt
This is just rude behavior. I know you’re eager to say what’s on your mind, but let’s go back to #1. If you’re tempted to interrupt, it’s because you’re listening to respond. You both deserve to be heard. Let him have his turn…
Take a breath…
Then have your turn.
Interrupting can create arguments because he won’t feel like you’re really listening (you aren’t). If you want to remember what you wanted to say while he’s talking, make a mental note of it and come back to your point when he’s done.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “I Don’t Know”
Not every discussion in a relationship needs to have a positive outcome or clearly-defined solution. It’s okay to walk away from it needing to think about it more. Sometimes not being in the middle of a heavy discussion is when your brain will come up with really great solutions, so plan a followup conversation if necessary.
Wanna know how to communicate effectively in a relationship? It’s as much what you do after you stop talking that can reinforce the positive vibes in your relationship. At the end of a good old-fashioned communication session, top it off with some good old-fashioned physical romance.
Having sex after a major talk will reduce stress and improve your mood. Sex is a fantastic bonding tool in a relationship, and those love endorphins will cement the two of you after what may have been a heavy conversation.
I think after reading these tips on how to communicate effectively in a relationship, you’re starting to understand that it doesn’t have to be complicated to be a better communicator. But it goes both ways! You can put all the effort into you being a better communicator, but if your boyfriend doesn’t, it simply won’t work.
Know when to throw in the towel. If he’s unwilling to talk about the issues in your relationship, how can you expect to solve them?
So let me hear from you in the comments below: have you ever used any of these tips to communicate effectively in a relationship? How did it go? Do you have other strategies for us?
In part 2 of this article, I’ll give you 3 reasons why men emotionally shut down. Such a good topic. But to get access, you need to be a Sexy Confidence member. Signing up takes just seconds, and you’ll get instant access. Join today!