We have all have heard that one of the most important aspects of a relationship is communication.
But just talking to each other is not enough. What matters is how you talk and how you listen. By becoming aware of the most common mistakes couples make while communicating, you’re already on the path to a stronger, happier relationship.
1. You don’t paraphrase or restate
When you are listening to your partner, instead of responding with nods, ahas, and yeahs, practice paraphrasing.
For example, if they are talking about a conflict they had at work say, “So it sounds like you are frustrated because your boss didn’t acknowledge how hard you worked on that project.”
Not only does this type of communicating immediately make you a better listener, but it makes your partner feel like they are getting real attention and empathy. This tactic becomes especially important when you find yourself in an argument.
When restating something, you can follow up with, “Did I hear that right?” This will clarify big misunderstandings. Many of us have the tendency to project our own feelings onto others. Restating and paraphrasing can help us understand each other much better.
2. You focus on the person instead of the issue
Your partner has forgotten to buy your favorite snack at the grocery store — again! You even texted them about it beforehand! If you say something like, “You’re so annoying,” “You never listen,” or “You’re so forgetful,” they will most likely feel insulted and hurt.
Instead, try to talk about the issue at hand and how it makes you feel. For example, “It makes me feel frustrated that you forgot what I wanted. Is there a way I can help you to remember next time?” Statements beginning with “I” take pressure or blame off of your partner, and help put your partner into your shoes – a great way to encourage empathy, rather than defensiveness.
3. You don’t show your appreciation often enough
It is important to remind your partner you appreciate them. This generates a warm and loving atmosphere as a backdrop to your relationship.
Tell them that you think they look good that day, that you enjoyed the meal they cooked, that you appreciated that they picked up the kids from school. These little things might not seem that important. Many couples take them for granted. But relationship experts emphasize that it’s crucial to constantly remind your partner that you appreciate them. It’s a win-win!
4. You have serious conversations while feeling emotional
How can you not feel emotional when having a serious conversation with your partner? This might sound counterintuitive but it’s best to remain as rational as possible when tackling issues such as money, marriage, and family.
There are a few techniques you can practice in order to minimize your emotions at these times. Write down the main points you want to discuss with your partner before starting the conversation. Or do something relaxing that you enjoy before having a serious talk. Try yoga, meditation, or taking a warm bath. Clear your mind before tackling these kinds of weighty, emotive subjects and you’re far more likely to get a positive outcome.
5. You don’t actually listen
When someone else is speaking, we are so often waiting for our opportunity to say what we think, rather than actually listening. We finish their sentences for them, jump to conclusions, and continue the conversations in our head, separately from what the other person is saying.
Take a pause. Try to genuinely halt your inner monologue, and focus 100% on the other person. Look into their face, and take in what they’re trying to say. Don’t rush in. Consider what they’ve said, and think carefully before giving them your response.
It sounds easy, but effective listening is in fact a difficult skill to master, and takes time and practice. Keep at it though! Your mutual understanding will increase tenfold, and conflicts will take half the time to resolve.
6. You don’t lead by example
Rather than just talking about how you and your partner can improve your communication skills, you can lead by example. When you change your own habits for the better, your partner will pick up on it. It’s an effective way of inspiring them to change and communicate more effectively with you!
Communication with your partner requires self-awareness and a clarity of mind. Give yourself time to reflect on the ways you talk to your loved one. You can do so as you drink your morning coffee or before you go to bed.
Ask yourself, “Do I use kind and loving words?” and “Do I really listen?” It’s OK to make mistakes, just be sure to acknowledge them and try to do better each time. It’s not an easy process, but the results will be hugely rewarding.