Nurturing Understanding: Building Skills for Better Communication

Young Asian couple in a forest smiling and  looking at each other through binocularsRelationships are precious and help us form a sense of who we are. Even though we may have differing viewpoints, relationships can be happy, wonderful, and fulfilling if we can feel nurtured, understood, and appreciated.

Love and respect are the foundations for healthy relationships. As well-known psychotherapist Virginia Satir explains, “Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible—the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.”

Sometimes relationships can be frustrating and confusing. You may think you are communicating well with your partner, only to realize that you have been misunderstood. Feelings get bent out of shape, which can lead to instant conflict.

It’s also possible to improve relationships. By learning and using more effective communication strategies, you can build a stronger and happier relationship with your partner and secure a sense of love and respect.

Communication involves so much more than what we say. Partners must choose to improve their communication by honestly sharing how they feel and what they are expecting from each other. Learning to communicate better can bring your relationship to a whole new level and reduce stress and conflict.

Besides making communication with your partner easier and more productive, these strategies can help you communicate better with everyone around you.

Using “I” statements rather than “you” statements allows you to take personal responsibility for your own feelings without placing blame. Saying “I feel angry when you speak to me like that” enables you to stand up for yourself without attacking your partner. After all, your perception of what’s happening is what you need to communicate to others.

Be direct. Get to the point as clearly and respectfully as possible in order to increase understanding and reduce confusion. This strategy helps to keep it simple and allows you a chance to clarify without conflict.

Visual cues help assess the effectiveness of communication. Communication involves more than just what we say, it is also how we say it. Learning to read the body language and facial expressions of others, as well being aware of your own, will reduce conflict and keep communication clearer.

Effective listening immediately makes a difference in how we communicate in relationships. Effective listening is not just hearing what the other person is saying. It means respectfully listening in order to understand how they feel and their perception or views of the situation. Effective listening means really taking the time to hear them out and not interrupting. Waiting patiently to reply, even if you disagree, is a sign of respect and conveys to your partner that you have taken the time to process what they have said. Effective listening shows that your partner is important to you. In relationships that are having difficulty with communication, it is generally due to lack of effective listening.

Being polite and respectful helps reduce conflict and stress when communicating with your partners. Remembering to use manners shows your partner that you care about your relationship, and allows your partner a chance to calmly receive your message. Manners are important!

Stay positive and patient. It conveys a sense of respect, desire to reduce conflict, cooperation, and compromise. Keeping a positive attitude about an agreeable outcome and staying patient will create a calm environment for discussion without the potential sabotage of aggression.

Addressing the present situation keeps discussions on a productive path. Focusing the discussion on solving the current conflict or issue prevents bringing up past problems that will only escalate the conflict.

Communication is an important element in every relationship. We do it every day in so many ways. With some minor changes to how you communicate with your partner, you can instantly make a remarkable difference in your relationship. It’s a life skill, and yes, you have to practice at it to get better. When you choose to take personal responsibility by communicating in a direct manner, you are on the right course to happiness. Some little changes in how you communicate with your partner will encourage them to more effectively communicate back.

© Copyright 2010 by Beth S. Pumerantz, LMFT. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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

  • Leave a Comment
  • Joani

    February 3rd, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    ugghh I think my husband was raised without the benfit of ever learning how to communicate, that is unless you consider grunts and the occassional yes and no as communicating.
    All joking aside it does drive me crazy that he does not seem to see the value of conversation in the same way that I do and I swear I don’t know where to begin without him becoming either more distant, annoyed, and aggravated.

  • Beth

    February 3rd, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    I hear you Joani! Have you asked your husband how he feels about communicating with you or with anyone else for that matter? How he feels about it may shed light on why he doesn’t do it with you. We first learn how to communicate when we are very young by watching, and listening, to our families. Communicating is a very powerful expression we share with others and this may be very scary, intimidating, or too difficult for some of us, maybe even your husband. One solution is to talk about it without placing blame or pushing our agenda on others!! A communication specialist can guide you both toward successful communication and a deeper relationship!

  • hannah

    February 3rd, 2010 at 7:36 PM

    It is not just important to be able to put forth your viewpoints, but it is also necessary to be able to listen to the other person. Being a good listener is more important than being a good speaker even…if you cannot listen to another person, you are humiliating them and also not giving them a reason enough to actually pay attention and listen to you while you speak.

  • Beth

    February 3rd, 2010 at 7:56 PM

    Yes, Hannah, you’re right! It’s the careful and respectful listening that’s very important to good communication. Without it, effective communication is spoiled! Thank you for stressing this important part!

  • Inverson

    February 4th, 2010 at 2:41 AM

    no relationship can grow or even be sustained without communication. And not just communication but good communication. Talking to another person and putting your points across helps clear the air and prevents any doubts or issues…

  • Joani

    February 4th, 2010 at 5:54 AM

    Oh believe me over the years I have tried and tried to get him to tell me what;s going on but he just won’t. And I can hardly see him getting around to opening up much to anyone else either. It’s like he shuts down when anything important comes up and he tries to mask what he is feeling by just not talking. But I know that’s not healthy for him but it’s not helping me too much either. So I almost feel like I am fighting a losing battle, but it helps to know that there are some alternatives if only I could just get him to admit that there is a problem and go along with me to see if this can be salvaged, because quite honestly I don’t know how much more of it I am going to take. There are no kids involved so sometimes I think it would be easier to walk away, but that totally goes against the fighter that I know I have inside of me!

  • Rennie K.

    February 4th, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    Sometimes it is so tough to just put your points across to a person…it would definitely do harm the relationship …it may be because that person is not ready to listen to you or because you are not able to put things across to that person. What i do in such a situation is that i write down whatever I need to tell the person and then hand over the letter to himn/her. This ensures that my message gets across therebyt preventing any harm to the relationship :)

  • Beth

    February 4th, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    We are on our way to being effective communicators right here! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a guaranteed fool-proof strategy which makes communicating a breeze? With all the strategies and all the best interventions and all the best therapists and friends, it still comes right down to the fact that the basics of communication must involve all sides choosing to participate. Rennie’s idea of writing down a message to share can help reduce conflict, so are you expecting the person receiving this message to write back? So I must ask, how do we define effective communication? Thanks to Inverson, good communication is necessary if our relationships are to grow! And Joani brings up a good point about standing strong. Can a fighter know when to be courageous and choose not to fight? Is that considered giving up?

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