5 Tips for Becoming a More Effective Communicator in Your Relationship
Before my husband and I tied the knot, we knew communication was incredibly important for our relationship and our marriage. After all, it’s not top secret information that good communication is a huge factor when it comes to healthy relationships.
According to a recent survey, communication is the number one reason why couples split up. The survey polled 100 mental health psychologists and counselors to find out what issues led to a divorce with the married couples they saw. Communication problems were the most common factor—65% of couples site this as the reason they called it quits. Next on the list of reasons a couple broke up had to do with their inability to resolve miscommunication and conflict.
During our first year of marriage, my husband and I learned that effectively communicating with each other is much more than just talking though. Communication involves intentional speaking and listening. It takes healthy doses of clarification, patience, love, understanding, and empathy to communicate well in a relationship.
Ask Clarifying Questions—And More of Them
If you weren’t listening well when someone started to talk, or you were shocked by what someone said, an effective communication tool is to ask for clarification.
Asking someone, “Do you mean . . . ” and then explaining what you perceived them to can be effective in two ways. First, it gives them a chance to hear how their words were communicated. But it also gives the speaker a chance to clear up any misunderstandings that could have occurred. Another phrase that you could use is “What I hear you saying is . . . “.
Remember Timing—For Speaker AND Listener
Just like asking the right questions is important, timing your conversations with others is key to being a good communicator. There have been quite a few times where I’ve asked my husband a deep, thoughtful question at the wrong time. I end up frustrated and angry that the conversation go as planned, but I didn’t stop to think about whether the timing was right for the conversation I wanted us to have.
We’ve learned that we don’t communicate effectively if we try to talk about tough subjects right before bed. We’re both so sleepy that we end up not saying what we mean, or being to tired to be fully present. If your partner is stressed out, in a rush, or busy doing something else at the moment, ask yourself if now is the best time to have a good conversation.
Give Your Full, Undivided Attention
I’m guilty of thinking I can multi-task my way through anything. But it only took one time of typing up an e-mail while chatting on the phone to realize that my brain can’t handle two tasks as well as I thought it could.
If you’re the listener in the conversation, give your partner the gift of quality time and attention. Hearing someone’s words and listening to their thoughts are two very different things. Take time to look at them in the eyes while they’re talking so they know you’re not distracted.
Turn your cellphone to silence and stop doing whatever your doing so that you can fully pay attention to them. If you’re the speaker in the conversation and you realize that your partner is distracted or preoccupied, ask them if you can have some time later to tell them what’s on your mind.
Our words are an important part of communicating, but our body language conveys a message, too. You can communicate through your body posture, eye contact, and tone of voice. Make sure that your words and your body language convey to the other that you’re fully present with them and invested in the conversation.
Signal The Importance of the Conversation
Not all conversations are created equal. In a relationship, you’ll talk about everything from where to go to dinner during your date to deciding how you’ll discern your vocations together.
If you have something important to communicate, or desire to share something very personal with your significant other, alerting them to the importance of the conversation can be a helpful communication tool. Maybe you have a signal phrase with each other that lets the other person know you need them to be fully present.
It could be as simple as saying “I need to tell you something important,” or “I have something to talk about that I really need you to hear”. When they hear that signal phrase, they’ll know that they need to give you their full attention.
Repetition Leads To Retention
Repeating someone’s words and thoughts back to them during a conversation not only helps them know you’re listening, but it also helps with your personal understanding of what they’re communicating. Research has shown that we retain about 50% of what we hear verbally in conversation, and only commit 25% of what’s communicated to memory.
But when we repeat back what we’ve heard out loud, our retention increases dramatically. When you echo back what someone has shared with you, you’re putting yourself close to the experience they’re sharing.
Through our own trials and errors, we’ve learned to become better communicators with each other and it’s only helped our marriage relationship. Here are five tips and strategies we’ve learned that have taught us how to become good communicators. It’s never too late to put these tips into place and avoid misunderstanding in your relationship!
Chloe Langr is a very short stay-at-home-wife, whose growth has probably been stunted by the inhumane amounts of coffee she regularly consumes. When she is not buried in a growing stack of books, she can be found spending time with her husband, geeking out over Theology of the Body, or podcasting. You can find more about her on her blog "Old Fashioned Girl."