Everyone agrees that effective communication is an important part of any relationship. If only it were that simple.
Great conversation doesn’t equate to great communication, however. Problems happen because relationships involve people, and as people we tend to bring our emotions, past experiences, and expectations to conversations we have. However, healthier and stronger relationships are just a good conversation away.
Here are some guidelines for communicating in a way that respects your partner and honors your relationship.
11 Ways to Communicate Better in Relationships
1 – Listen
When a conversation gets heated, it’s common to get so focused on making our point that we forget to listen to the other side. When we are trying to prove our side, it’s sometimes hard to take a step back and just listen. It is important to use phrases like, “Tell me more about …” or “Help me understand…” Asking questions to help us focus on listening and encourage them to talk more, will help everyone feel respected.
2 – Timing is Everything
It is important to be respectful of people when we are selecting a time to talk. Blindsiding the other person makes it is hard to have a meaningful conversation. Instead, let them know that you want to talk later, when the timing is better.
3 – Take a Breather
If something is frustrating, it might be better to wait to approach the other person. Just because we are angry or have the need to talk, doesn’t mean we have to do it right away. Time and distance can put the issue into perspective and allow the emotion of the situation to dissipate.
4 – Pay Attention
When we communicate, there are more than just words to consider. We should be paying attention to nonverbal communication cues as well. The tone of the conversation, eye contact, the stance and how far away you are standing away from the other person are clues to what is being said beyond the words.
It’s not just the other person’s body language that we need to be aware of either, we need to be aware of our own, too.
5 – Listen For Feelings
When we listen – we connect more deeply to our needs and emotions, and to those of other people. Also, listening makes it easier for others to hear us when it’s our turn to speak.
6 – Focus on Now
If we are holding on to grudges based on past resentments, it will cloud our ability to see the now. Rather than looking backward and blaming, look at what you can do right now to solve the problem.
7 – Face to Face
Many people resort to “texting out” difficult or stressful situations, rather than talking them out with another person. While it certainly makes it easier to have a difficult conversation and helps to avoid confrontation, the only appropriate way to have an important conversation is face to face.
As mentioned earlier, it is important to get the full picture, and that includes all sorts of communication cues that only happen when you are talking in person.
8 – Forgive
Solutions are impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive. We have to be willing to let go of wanting to punish the other person. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. It simply means that we choose to let go in order to move forward.
9 – Pick Your Relationship Battles
Conflicts are hard and sometimes the energy just isn’t worth it. Ask yourself, “Is this disagreement worth my time and emotional investment?” Make the solution a priority – even over being right. Winning at all costs is not worth our relationships.
10 – Let It Go
If you can’t come to an agreement, sometimes the adage, “let’s agree to disagree” may be the right course of action. It only takes one person to keep an argument going, and that happens when we don’t let things go. If it’s going nowhere, it might be time to move on.
11 – A Relationship Is a Two-Way Street
Ask more questions, seek feedback and be receptive. It is hard to hear things that are less than flattering, but it is important to allow people to have their own, independent voice. When receiving feedback, don’t feel the need to respond immediately. In fact, it might serve us better to take the feedback and respond after taking that breather discussed earlier.
Giving people a safe environment for communication to flourish is as important as you trying to communicate effectively.
Bonus Relationship Tip: Be Respectful
Being respectful means accepting opinions that differ from our own. Even if you don’t agree with the other point of view, it is still a valid point of view and deserves attention.
By dismissing the point of view, we are dismissing the other person. Avoid the appearance of an attack by talking in a calm voice, avoiding sarcasm and gossip.
You can begin to improve your relationships beginning right now by trying the tips included here that are most comfortable to you. They work for all kinds relationships too. Put these communication best practices into action at work, home, the gym and wherever you find yourself interacting with others. When you do, your relationships will surely become stronger.