Updated: Nov 9, 2020
People claim ‘communication is the key to any relationship’, and they’re not lying, but positive communication can be difficult to achieve especially in the heat of the moment. Learning how to communicate takes time, patience and practice, but once you have the hang of it, you’ll be gifted with little rewards every day. Here are some fantastic tips to improving communication.
Being able to communicate what you mean may help with differences between you and your loved ones, especially if it is about an issue important to you. If you are able to communicate openly about your needs and feelings as soon as an issue arises, then this may help stop it from escalating to a point of conflict. Being able to verbalise what is actually on your mind helps to avoid miscommunication that may lead to resentment, pain, frustration or anger. By working together, strong communication can greatly improve a relationship.
How does one go about practicing ‘good’ communication skills?
Being assertive is a very important skill when it comes to standing up for yourself. It does not mean being aggressive with others or forcing your will upon them, nor does it mean allowing anyone to walk all over you. It’s about being respectful not only to others but to yourself as well. Being assertive is speaking clearly about your desires, using phrases such as, “I feel like this ……….. Whenever you do this ………..” “I really care about our relationship and when this happens …………… I feel really uncomfortable” or even “I appreciated when you did ……..” such phrasing helps to get your meaning across in a clear and concise manner.
Good communication is about body language, standing straight but in a relaxed posture with minimal fidgeting. Look at your loved one in the face, not at your feet or hands while speaking in a confident voice. If you think you might have some trouble with coming across as confident there are a few tricks you can use into fooling your body to act more confident then you feel. One such trick is holding a ‘power pose’ before attempting communication. You can try this by holding your hands clasped behind your head, chest open, like your relaxing in bed, or with your hands on your hips, and your shoulder broad (like a superman pose). When test it was proven that holding these poses for even just 2 minutes increased testosterone levels by 20 percent and decreased cortisol by 25 percent, which is a stress hormone. Even dressing ‘powerfully’ will give you a feeling of being strong and assertive.
When you first attempt to communicate with someone expect them to act defensive in at the beginning. To them it may feel as though you are attacking them verbally, you are not, because you have been working on your assertive communication skills and now know what is assertive and what isn’t. When you know someone is likely to act aggressive, cruel or wounded you are more prepared and less likely to react negatively.
Give them space to think things over - Tell them you understand that they may not like what you are saying right this moment, you are not saying it to try and hurt them, but because it is important to you and something that needs to be discussed. Suggest for them to think it over and you can talk about it afterwards. Giving them this space is important as they are unlikely to take anything on board without it.
If you start to feel yourself rising to their ‘challenge’ give yourself space as well, so you don’t react in anger, as that will undo all your hard work– try taking a few breaths to calm down, if this is not working, walk away and try again later.
Don’t drop the subject matter in the face of their negative or adverse reaction – this is an important issue to you, you’ve thought about this and you are willing to make a stand, that means something, don’t give up on it or yourself. Give them their space, but come back to it later. Don’t back down straight away or compromise too soon for standing up for your own feelings as it is a start to a better, more equal and more loving relationship
Timing and environment is essential. If you believe they’re going to take what you say ‘hard’ don’t spring it on them, especially as they are leaving for work, going to an important meeting or walking into a stressful situation. That would be completely unfair, and it’ll make your work twice as hard. If you can, wait until they are in a calm environment and don’t feel frazzled. Don’t wait for the perfect moment there will never be one. The environment should be somewhere quiet; it should be away from public places, so there’s less pressure.
Practice makes perfect. Just like when you’re getting ready to go to a job interview, you don’t go in there blind, you practice to increase your skills. It can help to write out a list of why you want things change and why you’re willing to stand up for it, why is ‘it’ important to you? Write down why you think they may disagree and come up with counter reasons as to why they should. Write down the pro’s and con’s of getting what you want, and don’t just look at yourself, Look at if there are any pro’s and con’s for the other person and express what they will get out of it too.
Rephrase if necessary. But it is important that you don’t do it before giving them space as it might come off as nagging, but after you have talked about it, and if it is still unresolved but important issue. If you both have come to a solution, you can’t keep bringing it up; you need to settle on something that works for the both of you. You may need to re-phrase what you’re trying to verbalise if they do not understanding.
When you both start to communicate instead of just reacting to one another, listen to what they have to say, it is just as important as what you are trying to get across. Communication isn’t just about talking; both parties have to be heard as well.
And lastly be honest, with yourself and with them – what do you truly want from this conversation? Are you just arguing for arguments sake? Or because you truly want something? And are you willing to give something up for it in return because you’re more than likely going to have to compromise on something to get it.
Practice these tips as it takes “practice to better any relationship we are not born knowing what to do”, do not worry if you occasionally slip up your working on progress rather than perfection. If after trying these techniques and practicing, you still find yourself struggling in your relationship, consider talking with a relationship counsellor. All our psychologists at Counselling and Wellbeing Centre are trained in relationship counselling and are able to recognise the patterns in a couple’s communication that are causing problems and can assist to help change those patterns. And if possible bring your loved one in too, as both working together to find a suitable solution for the pair of you is much better than one. You’ll find that counselling is a safe environment where you can express your feelings without fear or judgement from the counsellors.