5 Communication Skills Every Couple Should Develop

Shot of a young couple talking and drinking coffee in a spacious white kitchenIt’s very common for couples to pursue counseling when communication issues begin to dominate their relationship. Does it ever feel like you and your partner keep missing each other on something? Or like your partner just doesn’t seem to get you anymore? Perhaps you feel you’ve been very clear about your perspective and it’s your partner’s problem that they just can’t seem to understand the issues from your point of view.

Blaming each other for what’s not working, although tempting, will not get you the satisfaction you so desperately desire. Whether you are struggling to navigate a difficult situation together or daily arguments have become the norm, everyone can benefit from improved communication. Here are five tips to help you get on a better track toward mutual understanding and a deeper connection:

1. Find an opportune time to talk calmly about the issues.

Preserving time to check in with each other can help you be more productive. Arrange a time in the near future when you are both likely to be calm and comfortable. Perhaps you find that morning tends to work best, or Sunday afternoon when you’re in a more relaxed mood. You may need to adjust your schedule slightly so you have some extra time.

Too often, couples attempt to discuss an issue as it’s unfolding. While this may work some of the time, giving each other a heads-up to discuss something more in-depth may help you feel more relaxed and open with your partner. Take a moment to express your need and then follow up with a suggestion for a more opportune time. This communicates respect and consideration, which helps to promote an atmosphere of goodwill between two people.

2. Understand and communicate your partner’s perspective.

Listening can be tough, especially when the other person is saying something that triggers a defensive response in you. Remind yourself that you will also have a turn; right now it’s important to tune in and not interrupt. Make eye contact and be fully present with your partner. You can demonstrate being present by focusing exclusively on the conversation and what’s being said. It might be helpful to view the discussion as involving two subjective perspectives rather than one person being “right” or “wrong.”

If you’re not clear on something, ask a thoughtful question or two to make sure you really understand. You might even say, “Am I getting that right?” or, “I want to make sure I understand; tell me if I’m hearing you correctly …” Take turns talking and listening to each other. Spending just 10 minutes focused on the other person sharing their perspective can make a significant difference. If you find things are escalating, take a 5-minute break and come back.

3. Be mindful of your language and tone.

When you feel the urge to become accusatory or to begin a statement with “You always …” stop yourself. Ask yourself what you’re feeling in this moment.

It can be so easy to miss an important message when we don’t like the tone in which something is being said. Take inventory. When you feel the urge to become accusatory or to begin a statement with “You always …” stop yourself. Ask yourself what you’re feeling in this moment. Taking a minute to slow down before responding can help you say what you truly feel instead of becoming defensive or blaming. Perhaps you might try: “Talking about this always seems to lead us down a destructive path. I’d like to get to a better place with it, but I’m just not sure how.” This kind of statement might help to open up a more constructive dialogue.

If you find a particular topic is especially difficult, it may help to share your feelings surrounding the issue. For example, you might say, “I’d really like to talk about (the issue) with you, but I’m feeling anxious about it because I know this is an area we tend to struggle with.” Sometimes this sort of statement can relieve the pressure to get it right the first time. Be patient with yourself; with time and practice, communication with your partner can become more productive.

4. Think in terms of what you can give, not just what you can take.

While it’s certainly true good relationships involve both give and take, when both partners are focused on giving, they strengthen their ability to negotiate conflict more effectively. With some increased awareness, you can shift a problematic dynamic. Tune into your words and actions more carefully. Is there something you can say or do differently to yield different results? When we are kind, we send a caring message to our partner, and when we feel cared for, we can operate from a place of generosity and love.

What positive and unique qualities do you bring to your relationship? What makes you feel happy to provide to your partner? How can you contribute positively to the situation?

5. Notice and say out loud what you appreciate about your partner.

Everyone wants to feel appreciated and valued. It can be easy to fall into a thinking pattern of: “I feel like I do so much, but no one notices.” When we take the time to openly appreciate someone else’s positive qualities and good deeds, we foster an atmosphere of emotional generosity. Notice something about your partner that you feel grateful for? Share it! Be on the lookout for what you can appreciate and say it. Often, we tend to focus on what we don’t have or what’s not working in relationships. This critical shift in perspective to a focus on the positive can make all the difference. You might find your partner begins to share their appreciation for how awesome you are as well.

Taking the time to understand your partner’s perspective and to reflect back that you truly “get it” can have a significant impact on the quality of your relationship. The next time you find yourself a little stuck, try out the tips above to help you move toward a deeper, more satisfying connection.

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Jennifer J. Uhrlass, LMFT, therapist in New York City, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Alexa

    Alexa

    January 25th, 2017 at 10:19 AM

    No matter how tempting it is to talk things out in the heat of the moment I have learned that this really is not the best approach for me.
    I am much more calm and rational when I can take a little bit of a step back from the moment, clear my head of negativity and think through what I really want to say.
    It isn’t that I feel like I have to rehearse it but truthfully I feel a little more able to effectively communicate what it is that I am feeling when I take a little bit of time than I will ever be able to do in that moment of debate or anger.

  • Jeff

    Jeff

    January 25th, 2017 at 2:07 PM

    I try to give my wife some kind words every day about something new that I love about her. It is always sincere, and I confess that after as many years as we have been together it can be a little more difficult than it used to be to find something new.

    You just know so much about the person at that point! Still even the days when I have to repeat something that I may have already said, I think that she enjoys it and looks forward to it because sometimes when you give your spouse kind words you get so much more than that back in return

  • elle

    elle

    January 26th, 2017 at 6:31 AM

    There have been times that I have actually repeated back to him the words that he said, or what I thought he said and what I felt like they meant.
    It was very helpful for both of us to know how the other was interpreting what was said and I think that there have been many times that this has very quickly cleared up any misunderstanding between us.

  • Myra T

    Myra T

    January 26th, 2017 at 1:42 PM

    My husband and I both had this problem of really forgetting about each other’s needs when the kids were still at home. He was very focused on them and I guess that I was too so when they all finally left home it was like he and I had to learn t get to know each other all over again.
    I will admit that there were times that I just felt like who is this person? I am sure that he felt the same way so I’m not casting all blame on him.
    It has been a process of learning to talk to each other again about things that are important to us and not just things going on with the children.

  • Cyrus

    Cyrus

    January 27th, 2017 at 7:53 AM

    I was with this one woman who made no bones about the fact that she was in that relationship for her, what she could get out of it, and that it had very little to do with me. The bad thing is that I always felt like if I could hold on long enough that I could change the way she felt.

    Not so much. Eventually I cam to my senses and kicked her out of my house.

  • Ruthie

    Ruthie

    January 28th, 2017 at 7:24 AM

    Being able to live in silence, a comfortable silence, is something that I think that older couples can do so much better than younger ones. I think that once you get to a certain age you just become a little more comfortable in your own skin and you don’t always feel the need to fill that space with mindless chatter. You can be a little mroe aware of what the important things really are and you can appreciate those things together.

  • Sue

    Sue

    January 29th, 2017 at 9:45 AM

    There are days when I truly do believe that it all about picking the right moments to bring things up with your partner

  • Randee

    Randee

    January 30th, 2017 at 10:27 AM

    These are all such no brainers, and yet so difficult for so many of us to achieve

  • RayAnne

    RayAnne

    January 30th, 2017 at 2:43 PM

    Just like anything else in life, if this is something that is important to you then you will find a way to hone those needed skills and make this work.
    If it isn’t all that important to you then you will likely neglect it and look back in a few years and wonder how you got to this place.
    It is all about tending to the things that need to be tended, because marriages don’t just prosper and flourish on their own.

  • Will H.

    Will H.

    January 31st, 2017 at 6:34 PM

    I agree with this article. Most unwanted problems that arise in couples may result from lack of effective communication. Talking to each other is an opportunity to sort and solve your problems together and at the same both of you can have fun – it’s one channel you can know each other better than yesterday. Through these communication skills, partners can strengthen level of trust, honesty and respect. Will

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