Want to improve your relationship through better communication? Here’s a list of the top 10 things you can do to communicate better to build a stronger, better bond: […]
1. Listen. Yes, this may seem obvious, but few people master listening. We are talking about active listening here, not simply hearing what another person is saying. Too often we are distracted. Or we pass over what is said as our minds are thinking about what we want to say next. To really listen to another, slow it down a bit enough to take in what they are saying. Carefully consider not only the content but also the feelings and motivations behind the words. Communicate what you understand their point to mean. (Not for every sentence–too much replay of a conversation can appear condescending–but for major thoughts, feelings or subject matter expressed). This let’s the speaker know that you have heard what they have said and want to be sure you understand what they are trying to convey. This will help you avoid many misunderstandings!
2. Be direct. We are not talking about being insensitive here, but direct. In other words, think about what you want to express before you begin. State simply what you wish to convey. No game-playing, no hiding behind indirect diversions in an effort to distract or “soft-peddle” what you wish to convey. Respect yourself and the other person and directly communicate your desired message.
3. Be aware. Experts report that up to 93% of communication is non-verbal. To communicate effectively you will need to hone your awareness of your non-verbal cues as well as the tone of your voice. As much as possible, become aware of your facial and body movements, posture, touch and proximity. All of these communicate different messages to your partner. People who are highly aware of their non-verbal as well as verbal performance are termed high self-monitors; they are cognizant of their performance while the conversation is taking place and may adjust accordingly. Low self-monitors are at a disadvantage if their non-verbal cues are sending the wrong signal or being misinterpreted. Also, be aware of the subtle cues your partner may be invoking. (Non-verbal communication is vast and deserving of its own post).
4. Choose your timing. If you want to discuss something serious that requires a discussion at length, be sure to choose a time when you are both relaxed if possible, and when you will have adequate time to cover the topic. Serious topics require forethought and preparation. Get in touch with your feelings and ask yourself if you are prepared for the conversation emotionally as well as mentally. Consider if the conversation should take a turn and a conflict arises–will you have time to reach a reasonable conclusion or could you be left hanging and have to leave before any resolution will be achieved?
5. Choose your setting. Private conversations are best held in private places where you both feel free to express yourselves fully. Try to avoid having private conversations in a public place, even if a conversation that was not private to begin with suddenly becomes private, agree to stop at that point and discuss later when both the timing and setting are more conducive to good communication. Even in private settings, consider structuring your environment to help facilitate the conversation (i.e. consider possible distractions such as pets or TV or music as well as comfort of the setting).
6. Know when to stop. Be sensitive to you partner in the conversation. If they are stressed or tired it will be difficult to have a high quality, lengthy conversation and/or resolve any issues. Sometimes it is best to pause or stop the conversation all together rather than beat it to death.
7. Bring your best self to the conversation. We all have times when we are not in a great mood. We may be tired, stressed or even depressed. These emotions can lead to unintentionally negative communication and perhaps miscommunication. At these times it is best to be aware of your feelings and politely let your partner know that it may not be the best time for a discussion. When you are feeling on top or your game, your communications will reflect this and everyone will appreciate the interactions you share when you are at your best.
8. Check in. Make communication with your partner a priority throughout your relationship. In the beginning of a relationship we have a strong desire to connect and communicate often. In longer term relationships we can begin to take each other for granite or assume communication is less necessary. This is not true. Although frequency of communication will naturally decrease somewhat, too infrequent communication tends to send a message of flagging interest and can even lead your partner to believe something is wrong. An easy way to keep the spark alive in your relationship is to simply check in with your partner with a short call or thoughtful text. Communication not only brings people together, it helps keep them together.
9. Don’t delay. Now more than ever we are inundated with communication. It can be overwhelming when you receive large quantities of emails, texts and phone calls, but don’t let the volume of communication deter you from prioritizing and responding to the communications from those closest to you. Filter or flag emails to help manage the volume and highlight those that require your attention. Scan texts and reply to those that need your immediate attention (take time later to reply to those that do not). Return calls based on need and time allowing. Timely responses demonstrate respect and caring.
10. Keep it enjoyable. Of course there are times that serious conversations are needed, but be sure that not all of your communications are serious, dry and mundane. Remember to use humor. Be playful. Whenever possible take time to appreciate your partner and let them know you do. Fun, enjoyable conversations are a pleasure and they provide a spark that will feed the excitement and pleasure you share.
Share your best communication tips in the comments section below.