Have you ever tried to express your opinion about an argument with your partner and feel like the harder you try, the more it gets complicated and you are left even more frustrated than before? You feel like your opinion is dismissed, you are not heard or understood. Over time, you start to feel detached and disconnected. You are not the only one. This is a common challenge in most relationships. Relationships are not always easy, there is no doubt about it. There is no magic elixir to making relationships work because each relationship is unique in its special way. So, what do you do?
In this post, I will discuss 5 hacks to improve your communication with your partner that will let you successfully navigate your relationship challenges effectively.
1. Listen to understand
Instead of listening to think about what you are going to say next, practice active listening to truly understand your partner’s experience. Active listening requires you to step out of the conflict, suspend your reactions so you can connect with your partner’s deepest needs. Here is how you can practice active listening with your partner.
Pay full attention to your partner. When they are talking to you, keep eye contact to let them know you are paying attention. Listen to their tone of voice, the words they choose to use, their facial expressions, and body language. What are they trying to tell you and what are their unmet needs?
Do not interrupt them when they are talking. By not interrupting your partner, you are sending them the message that you hear them and what they are saying is important for you to understand.
Verbalize what you heard your partner say back to them to make sure you are on the same page. There is a slight gap between when someone says something to you and how you perceive it. To ensure you understand your partner clearly, repeat what you heard them say to get this validation.
2. Slow down your communication
Sometimes the message gets lost in communication because the dialogue is moving too fast. If the same argument continues to resurface in your communication, this is an indication that it was never resolved. This can be very frustrating and may leave you wondering if it ever will be.
By slowing down your conversation, you create an opportunity to analyze if you are arguing about the same thing. For example, you may think the argument is about the dishes not being done while your partner is arguing about not feeling appreciated. Slowing down your conversation will not only help you identify the root of the argument but will also help you work together rather than against each other.
3. Use “I” statements
Use "I" statements to describe your thoughts and feelings about a situation. Avoid using “you” statements because they essentially disengage you from expressing your experience and creates an imbalance in communication where the focus shifts toward blaming and criticizing your partner. This is more detrimental to your relationship because it causes the conversation to become defensive.
Using “I” statements creates a safe environment to share your experience with your partner and invites open dialogue to allow your partner to engage in conversation with compassion.
4. Be aware of your emotional triggers
We all have emotional baggage from our childhood, past relationships, and experiences that we carry into our current relationships. This can be a result of a past traumatic event or an unmet need. Oftentimes our partners are not aware of our emotional triggers which leaves them more perplexed and distant. By recognizing your emotional triggers and naming them, it helps your partner understand there is more at stake beyond your current conversation. This allows your partner to connect with you and have more meaningful conversations.
5. Practice empathy
Know that your relationship dynamic is always changing. As you continue to grow with your partner, what used to be will not always be. Being empathetic is about stepping out of your shoes and into your partner’s shoes to see the situation from their lens. It permits you to begin appreciating a reality different from yours. When you respond empathetically, not only does it enable you to embrace your differences, it fosters a sense of safety and trust between you and your partner. This welcomes the possibility of a stronger connection and encourages mutual growth.
Give these communication hacks a try and explore how they can support you in improving your communication with your partner. If you find yourself struggling to do this alone, talk with a therapist. The therapist can provide you with insights into navigating your challenges.
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