I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I have a nasty habit. No, it’s not like drugs or anything but it can be as destructive to relationships. Are you ready? Here it is: I bottle stuff in and am terrible at communicating.
I know, anti-climatic, but just hear me out. This is a really horrible habit that I developed somewhere in my teens and continues to plague me to this day. I just let stuff build up until I explode and then there is no stopping the emotional rampage that eventually ensues. I have destroyed many relationships (romantic, platonic, and familial) with not being able to clearly communicate. Luckily for me, I have an incredibly patient and loving husband who is helping me improve my communication skills.
What are some simple ways to communicate better in a relationship?
1. Stop, Listen and Ask Questions- This one is probably the most important. I find that we, as human beings, tend to jump to the first conclusion way too fast. We often forget to ask for clarification before our emotions get the better of us. Often, arguments are over small misunderstandings that could have been cleared up by just stopping, taking a deep breath, and asking a couple of questions. In turn, quiet your monkey brain and really listen to what your partner has to say and really understand it. Here’s a good exercise: When your partner says something, rephrase it in your own words for better clarification.
2. Be assertive, confident, and clear in your meaning- When you want to discuss something, have your thought ducks in a row and be confident in your knowledge of the subject. Don’t bat around the bush or shroud your points in mysterious language and then assume that your partner understands you. Your partner (and most people for that matter) is not a mind reader. Also remember that in general, men and women communicate differently: whereas the discussion (of feelings, situation, etc) is itself the goal to women, men tend to see communication is results-oriented and want to accomplish something. Being as clear as day, in bullet points (“You need to pick up your socks”) may make it easier for your partner than explaining other side items (“Why are you so messy? I’m not here to clean up after you. Can’t you see how tired I am?”).
3. Watch Your Body Language- Really watch what you’re not saying–i.e, your body posture and how you are holding yourself. My husband is extremely good at reading body language and knows when I’m trying to hide my feelings about something. What your body shows is just as important as your words. When talking to someone, keep a relaxed posture and with your hands at your sides. Look at your partner’s face with a relaxed gaze. This shows that you are open to communicating and ready for new ideas. Check these body language mistakes.
4. Timing is everything- If you have something important to discuss with your partner, make sure you pick a time when you will get his or her full attention. Heck, even scheduling conversation time is a good idea. For example, don’t bring up family planning when your partner is watching their favorite T.V. show.
5. Don’t Attack or use Sarcasm to get your point across- I love using playful sarcasm when it’s appropriate but it has no place in an argument and only worsens the situation. And attacking the person does nothing either, so just don’t do it. Attack the problem, not the person.
6. Be genuine- Nobody can fault you for being honest and genuine with your interests, hopes, dreams, and feelings. Being up front and honest about what makes you you is the most important aspect of any relationship. The bottom line is don’t try to hide anything from your partner. Staying open, true and honest helps with keeping lines of communication open.
Got any other tips? I’d love to hear them!
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Photo: Vic via Flickr.com