Relationship experts will tell you that healthy communication is the key to any relationship. Your feelings, life experiences, perspectives and internal biases all affect your communication. Learning the process for positive communication is as important as the message you’re trying to convey. Understanding how we communicate affects what we communicate.
The first step in successful communication is learning to listen. Listening is more than just hearing. Pay attention to your partner’s body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. When your partner is finished speaking, repeat back what you heard them say. Doing this will increase the likelihood that you are hearing your partner correctly, and that you understand what they are saying. Reflecting back what you heard could decrease the defensiveness in your partner, especially if they feel they are being heard, correctly. Learning to be a good listener creates a space where both partners’ feelings and opinions are honored and respected.
The second, equally important skill to acquire, is speaking. In communication, the role of the speaker is more than just sharing your opinions. When you are the speaker, use “I” statements that identify how you think and feel, as well as how you think your behavior contributes to the problem. Try to avoid using ‘You statements’. Speak in short statements that allow the listener time to digest and paraphrase to ensure both partners are on the same page. Speaking courteously, and being accountable for your behaviors will allow both parties to be vulnerable and communicate authentically.
It is the role of both the speaker and the listener to identify when it is time to take a break. When one partner, either the speaker or listener, becomes criticizing or defensive, it is time for a break. Assuming the role of the speaker or listener from a place of defensiveness or criticism with not allow either partner to accurately hear, allowing them to state their feelings. In difficult conversations, taking several breaks may be needed or necessary.
Building a healthy communication process in a relationship will impact how you interact as an individual, couple, and family. This process may be challenging and could challenge both partners to be vulnerable, but this will create growth needed for a healthy relationship. Strong communication within a relationship can help to overcome any obstacle, so make the commitment and take the risk to learn healthy communication strategies, together.