4 Little Things You Can Do To Improve Communication In Your Relationship
Are you and your partner really hearing each other?
Nothing is better than the feeling that someone knows and understands you at the deepest possible level. We all want to be heard. So why is it so difficult to express our most intimate and sensitive feelings? And why is it so hard for us to really listen to each other?
Good communication is at the heart of a healthy relationship. Without it, small misunderstandings turn into major conflicts, partners grow alienated from and resentful of each other, and love doesn’t stand a chance.
I know that personally, I sometimes hold back from sharing my feelings with my partner because I’m afraid what I want to say will come out wrong. And as good as it feels to be heard, it often doesn’t seem worth risking the pain of being misunderstood. Opening up makes you vulnerable; it’s not easy. One thing that makes it easier, though, is having a partner who is actively listening, and fully engaged in what we’re saying.
It’s important to keep in mind that communication is a two-way street. If we want our partner to listen to us, we’ve got to be willing to listen to them. And if we want them to talk to us, we’ve got to talk to them. If communication has broken down in your relationship, here are four simple things you can do to foster healthy communication habits – and keep conflict from engulfing your relationship.
Look each other in the eye
Eye contact is intimate. Think of when you were first falling in love, and you’d gaze into your sweetheart’s eyes for long moments, drinking them in. In some cultures, it’s considered rude to make eye contact with a superior; averting your eyes is a sign of respect. But in most Western countries, making eye contact is just the opposite – a signal that you’re listening and paying attention.
During a difficult conversation, it can be uncomfortable to maintain eye contact. But it’s crucial. Looking your partner in the eye tells them that they have your complete attention, and helps keep you in the moment, focused on what they’re saying. Whether you’re the one listening, or it’s your turn to talk, keep your eyes on your partner’s.
Turn off your phone
I admit: I’m often guilty of this one. If my phone is in my hand, on the table next to me, or even in my pocket, I reflexively glance at the screen to see if I have any emails or updates. Even as I’m doing it, I feel like a jerk – I just can’t seem to help myself.
Give your partner the gift of your full attention. That means you’re not distracted by a screen; not checking your phone or watching TV out of the corner of your eye. Put your phone away – not just in your pocket or on the table, but in the other room, switched to “do not disturb” mode or turned off. What’s more important – scrolling your Instagram feed, or the health and happiness of your relationship?
Be a mirror
Do you ever feel like you and your partner are talking at each other and not to each other? Like everything is bouncing off, not being fully understood or absorbed? Do you wish you could know what your partner is actually hearing when you say something?
Just like a mirror reflects things back at us, mirroring is a technique that allows you and your partner to tell each other what you’re hearing and seeing. When you pause the conversation and take time to repeat back what you heard your partner say, it not only tells them you were really listening, it gives them a chance to clarify or expand on what they said. That way, they can better understand how their words affect you, and also let you know whether you’ve gotten it right or not.
Watch your language
Your body language, that is. And more specifically, your partner’s body language. Is he crossing his arms or fidgeting? Is she hunched over and avoiding your eyes? Crossed arms can indicate anger or self-protection, fidgeting conveys anxiety or impatience, and someone who is slouching and avoiding eye contact likely doesn’t feel very confident or good about herself.
Even when your partner is silent, if you pay attention to what they’re doing with their body, it can tell you a lot. If your partner shows signs of becoming overwhelmed, take a break. You can’t get anywhere when your blood pressure is elevated and you feel like you’re under attack.
Do these four things – maintain eye contact, remove distractions, mirror back what you’re saying to each other, and pay close attention to body language – and your conversations will be more productive, you’ll feel more positive about your partner, and your relationship will flourish. If it feels hard, just remember: love is worth it.
Images via giphy, tumblr, hallmark
Comment: Do you and your partner do these four things when you talk to each other?