Many of the clients I work with sought therapy because they were having issues in their relationships. It may sound cliché, but healthy relationships are based around good and effective communication. Many people think this just means talking with your partner regularly, but it’s so much more complex than that. Communication isn’t just talking. It’s the words, tone, and timing that show how you’re listening.
Effective Communication Skills
The words and tone you use while communicating with your partner can make all the difference between having a calm conversation, and having a hostile argument. It’s important to use language that isn’t accusatory because it will cause your partner to feel attacked and become defensive. For example, saying, “You didn’t take the trash out again! You’re making me really angry,” sounds much different than, “I feel really angry when you don’t take the trash out.” The first sounds accusatory, while the second sounds calmer and gets across the same message. Avoid using swear words during conversations as they add hostility.
If the conversation does escalate to an argument, give each other permission to take a break and cool down. For some, this means going into separate rooms for 15 minutes. For others, it means agreeing to put the conversation on hold until the next day once you’ve both had time to calm down and think about what you want to say.
Have you ever heard the saying “timing is everything?” Well, when it comes to having conversations, it’s especially true. I recommend having conversations at home, where both parties feel comfortable and have the ability to escape if the conversation escalates. Having a conversation in a restaurant or store can make your partner feel uncomfortable, especially if it seems like others are listening in. For safety reasons, I don’t recommend having serious conversations in the car in the event they turn into an argument. One of the scariest moments for me was driving behind a couple who were clearly having an argument while swerving all over the road.
Having a conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking. Showing that you are listening helps your partner feel heard, respected, validated, and valued. One of the biggest ways of showing you are listening is by not interrupting. Other ways of demonstrating you are listening to your partner are through nonverbal body language, like maintaining eye contact and nodding your head.
If you believe that you and your partner could benefit from learning more about healthy communication strategies, consider beginning couple’s therapy with The Light Program. You can call our intake department at 610-644-6464 to schedule an intake department today.