Effective communication is vital in any relationship.
It allows you and your partner to connect with each other, understand one another and resolve any issues as they arise. It can help you build a stronger, healthier relationship by enhancing trust, honesty and respect.
Improving Your Communication Skills
If you feel you are not as successful at effective communication as you would like, don’t worry, as this is a skill you can learn and improve on – keep reading for some simple communication exercises which can help to improve your relationships.
First of all, if you have something you wish to speak to your partner about, timing is important. Make sure you choose a time when your partner isn’t busy or preoccupied with something else. It also helps if you are feeling calm beforehand. If you are feeling anxious, try taking a few slow, deep breaths.
Here are just some of the communication skills you can practise for the benefit of your relationship:
1. Listening Skills
Listening to your partner is the first step to effective communication.
Listening effectively has several components, including maintaining eye contact, using minimal encouragers (‘mmhmm, really, yes’) and allowing your partner to speak without interrupting.
Open-ended questions (‘tell me more about that’) are better than closed questions (‘did you say no?’) as they encourage the conversation to continue.
Summarising and paraphrasing are also helpful in helping your partner to feel heard and understood. You could also try reflecting your partner’s feelings back to them (‘you’re feeling angry because of what your boss said’) or reflecting meaning (‘that job was very important to you.’)
2. Express your Thoughts and Feelings
It is important to feel comfortable to talk about your own thoughts and feelings, even if they differ from your partner’s.
If expressing a view that is different from your partner’s, it is important not to judge, blame or criticise their view. Using ‘I’ statements can help you express your views in a way that keeps the responsibility on yourself. For example, instead of saying ‘You never help tidy the kitchen!’ you could try saying: ‘I feel annoyed when I get home from work and there are dishes in the sink, because it means I have to do extra work.’
3. Use Positive Language
Avoid criticism, judgements and threats. Instead, be positive about your partner and tell them what you like and admire about them. Communication is about connecting with one another, not disconnecting.
4. Be Clear and Concise
Use concise language, and stick to the facts. It helps to think about what you want to say beforehand, and some people find it a useful exercise to write down a few dot points to help them express themselves clearly.
5. Body Language
When listening to your partner, it is important to use eye contact, and pay attention to your body’s posture. This means facing your partner, and avoiding distractions such as looking at your mobile phone or the TV. Allow your partner to be the centre of your attention. Pay attention to the tone of your voice, and your facial expressions. All of these things tell your partner how you feel about them and are important when communicating effectively.
6. Show Empathy
Having empathy means putting your own views aside and focusing on how your partner is feeling, what they are thinking and trying to see things from their point of view. Even if you don’t agree with them, have respect for their viewpoint.
Communication Exercises for Relationships
Here are some exercises you might like to try if you are wanting to enhance communication in your intimate relationship:
- Set aside time each week to spend together. This could include going somewhere special and having a ‘date night,’ or staying home together and just enjoying each other’s company.
- Show appreciation and praise your partner for any kind or thoughtful actions. Think of something you can do for them in return, like cooking them dinner, giving them a massage or giving them a thoughtful card or gift.
- Be there to support your partner through any difficult times. This could include difficulties at work, with a friendship, or with family. Allow them a space to talk about their thoughts and feelings.
If you are interested in finding out other exercises to improve your communication skills in any relationship, you are most welcome to book an appointment with me at M1 Psychology Loganholme.
Author: Tegan Gonczar, BA (Hons), Grad Dip Ed (Secondary).
Tegan Gonczar is a Brisbane psychologist with experience in providing psychological counselling to children, adolescents and adults; she has a passion for working with people of all ages, to help them overcome obstacles, learn effective ways of coping and lead happier and more fulfilling lives.
Bookings and Fees: To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Tegan Gonczar, try Online Booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.
- Powell, T. (2009). The Mental Health Handbook : A Cognitive Behavioural Approach (3rd ed.). Speechmark Publishing Ltd., U.K.