True Communication Tips
Do you want communication tips to help make your good relationship great? As a couples counselor and couples therapist, I work with couples proactively to set their marriages up for success by practicing communication tips that are evidenced backed in supporting great relationships. Science confirms something we have known intuitively since time immemorial: we need healthy relationships with others to be truly fulfilled, whether it be with family, friends, or a romantic partner.
Harvard Medical school’s ongoing 75-year Grant Study, the longest-running study of human development in history, found that the single biggest predictor of life satisfaction is not money, power, or possessions, but love, connection, and warm human relationships.
So why does it still feel so hard at times to relate and communicate with those we love, and even harder to stay in love? While the drive to have strong relationships may be innate, the ability to maintain them is anything but. It takes constant practice to maintain healthy relationships but below are some communication tips to help you navigate!
How to Make a Good Relationship Great with Practical Communication Tips
If you want your current relationship to be great, you may need first to analyze your past. The first and longest relationship we experience is usually with our parents. We absorb whatever they model for us in their relationship as the right way to do it. You could say that when I work with a couple, I have six people in the room with me: the couple and each partner’s parents!
For example, if one member of a couple had parents who fought all the time, they may bring a volatile, argumentative style of communication to their current relationship. Alternatively, they may tell themselves that they want to avoid the hostility they witnessed between their parents at all costs, so they may be excessively accommodating with their partner.
Knowing our own and our partner’s history can help us understand and break the relational patterns we may have been taught in the past, giving us more choices in how we respond to one another in the present.
Once we understand our history and its effect on who we are now, the next step is to foster quality communication, which helps to deepen bonds and enables people to turn toward each other instead of away when things start to heat up.
When Practicing These Communication Tips: Self Awareness is the Key to Great Communication
The most important skill needed to communicate more effectively is to be able to locate our core feelings so that we can properly express them. After all, it’s never about how annoying the dirty dishes in the sink are, but rather how the dirty dishes make us feel. Maybe we feel disrespected by our partner, that they don’t care about the work we put in the household, that they see us as disposable.
When we understand what’s happening inside of us, we can use “I statements” (“I feel disrespected when you don’t help with the dishes.”) rather than “you statements” (“You always leave dirty dishes everywhere!”). “You statements” feel antagonistic, like an attack, and rather than fostering open dialogue, it makes the other person feel like they need to protect themselves, and they get defensive.
Instead, when a statement comes from a place of YOUR feelings, from YOUR heart, it has more impact. I suggest that my clients always address their feelings before anything else, and paraphrase their partner’s feelings to make sure they understand what is truly going on.
Let’s see this in practice with two very different conversations:
Partner 1: You’re ignoring me again, like you always do after work! You’re so selfish! (“you statements” and accusations)
Partner 2: No I’m not, I just had a busy day. Sheesh, why are you always on my case? (defensiveness)
Partner 1: If that’s the way you feel about it, why do you even bother coming home? (escalation, denial of desire to connect)
Partner 2: Fine! If you don’t want me here, I’ll leave!
Boy, that didn’t go very well. Those partners are both really feeling hurt, and are having such a hard time connecting. How might they try this differently?
Partner 1: I’m feeling hurt because I felt ignored by you when you came home today. (“I statement,” identifying the feeling, no accusation)
Partner 2: You’re feeling hurt because you think I was ignoring you? Is that right? (paraphrasing)
Partner 1: Yes, I felt really terrible. (de-escalation)
Partner 2: I see. I’m so sorry, it wasn’t my intention. (addressing the hurt feelings) I’ve been feeling worried about the big budget meeting coming up. (shares a feeling also)
Partner 1: Oh, you were thinking about the meeting! (paraphrasing) I totally forgot about that. I know it’s a big deal, but I wonder if we can find a way to connect when you get home because I miss you. (invitation for intimacy)
Great Communication Is Worth the Effort!
The truth is, we all want to be loved, appreciated, and valued in our relationships. However, this isn’t always easy. After all, a good relationship takes work, but the rewards are tremendous: emotional balance, physical well-being, and the knowledge that we truly matter.
By learning proper communication tips, and learning to listen to your partner actively, you show them that you value their feelings and needs, you appreciate their place in your life, and above all, that you love them with all your heart.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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