How to improve communication in your relationship

Does it sometimes feel you’ve reached a communication roadblock with your partner? Having foggy communication can make you feel alone and frustrated, and in the long run can hamper your relationship.

Even small changes in the way we communicate can make a big difference in how we receive and understand each other. Here are some simple techniques you can use to improve your interactions.

Take it in turns

When we’re passionate about a subject, it’s easy to stop listening because we’re keen to have our say. Do you find yourself preparing your own response before the other person has finished? If so, instead wait until they have made their point, and if you need to take a pause to prepare your response, that’s OK. Most importantly of all, avoid interrupting. Even if you feel strongly about what the other person is saying, let them finish.

Maintain eye contact

Avoiding eye contact can make you appear dismissive or disinterested. Maintaining your gaze can be difficult when you’re upset, but keeping a consistent level of eye contact (without staring), will show the other person that you’re confident in yourself and interested in what they’re saying.

Pay attention to your body language

Keeping an open posture and respecting the other person’s space will encourage open communication. Defensive stances (such as folded arms), fidgeting, doodling, pointing or over-gesturing might make the other person feel dismissed, or worse – threatened.

Use active listening

A nod, or occasional phrase like ‘ok’ or ‘go on’, will show the other person you’re interested in what they say. Again, easier said than done when you’re angry or frustrated, but this technique can go a long way in showing them you’re calmly taking in what they’re saying.

Monitor your tone

The tone of your voice speaks volumes about how you’re feeling. When we’re angry, it’s easy to start over-emphasising words (“That’s EXACTLY what I told you NOT to do”). Try and keep your tone calm and at a steady volume, paying attention to your emphasis.

Avoid ‘always’ and ‘never’ statements

We’ve all done it. When someone’s behaviour has frustrated us, we can find ourselves using ‘always and ‘never’ phrases, like ‘you never appreciate me’ or ‘you always forget to…’. Instead of saying ‘you never appreciate me’, try ‘when you don’t tell me you’re coming home late, it makes me feel unappreciated. Next time could you let me know?’

These phrases are known as ‘I statements’: ‘When you [describe action] I feel [describe feeling]. Next time can you [suggest alternative behaviour]’. They can be really helpful in addressing tricky subjects.

My Possible Self is a mental health app that can help you reduce stress, anxiety and depression and improve your communication, happiness and wellbeing. You can download the app here, or go to the App Store, Google Play. 

If you’re feeling threatened in your relationship, or fear violence or harm, seek help