Your communication skills dictate the success of your relationships.
Even if two people are compatible in terms of goals, values, and interests, they won’t stay together long if they can’t discuss their thoughts and feelings.
If you can’t seem to have a constructive talk with your partner, your communication skills might need an overhaul. Try these tips:
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1. Always show respect, even if you disagree with your partner
There is no excuse for shouting or swearing at your partner.
Show them the same courtesy as you would anyone else.
Otherwise, your discussions will rapidly spiral out of control.
2. Have a phone-free hour every night
Smartphones are amazingly useful, but they can also undermine relationships.
You might be a good multitasker, but using your phone during a conversation appears rude, even if you are capable of listening at the same time.
Set aside some phone-free time each evening. Make time for traditional face-to-face conversation.
3. Remember the 5:1 rule
Relationship expert John Gottman advises that for every negative interaction, the healthiest relationships has at least five positive interactions.
When giving constructive criticism, be sure to make it clear that you love and appreciate your partner, even if they are currently making you unhappy or angry.
4. Take a deep breath before responding to criticism
It’s easy to overreact during a difficult conversation, but extremely hard to take back words said in anger.
This is particularly true if your partner is giving you negative feedback that you think is wrong.
Criticism can be tough to take, so count to five, rehearse what you will say in your head, and then respond in an even, steady tone of voice if possible.
5. Don’t drag up the past
Focus on the present.
There is nothing to be gained from bringing up issues that were dead and buried a long time ago, unless you are absolutely certain that they are germane to the conversation.
Never bring up the past just to score points or distract your partner from the issue at hand.
6. Monitor their body language, not just their words
Sometimes, our bodies betray how we really feel.
Look at your partner’s body language; what does it tell you about their emotional state?
If their nonverbal and verbal signals aren’t in alignment, gently share your observation and ask whether they are holding something back from you.
Don’t accuse them of lying; simply ask for more information.
7. Aim to find a solution rather than score points
As the old saying goes, “It’s better to be happy than it is to be right.”
Good relationships are built on compromise.
You will be more successful as a couple if you aim to solve your problems instead of asserting your will.
8. Talk face to face
Communicating via text and email is no substitute for face to face interaction.
To fully appreciate what your partner is communicating, you need to be able to see and hear their tone of voice, body language, and facial expression.
9. Paraphrase your partner
If you aren’t sure whether you have understood your partner correctly, try reflective listening.
This gives them a chance to correct any misunderstandings.
For example, phrases like “So what I’m hearing from you is…” and “If I understand correctly, you are telling me that….” are good openers.
Put their message into your own words to show that you’ve tried your best to comprehend their meaning.
10. Take a time out if necessary
We all feel overwhelmed from time to time.
If you are feeling flustered, angry, or very upset during a discussion, leave the room for a few minutes to gather your thoughts.
11. When it’s time to forgive, let go
Respecting someone means acknowledging their right to make mistakes.
For the sake of your relationship, you cannot afford to nurse grievances.
If your partner has made a sincere apology and done their best to rectify their mistake, let it go. Otherwise, you will hold onto resentment for months, or even years.
Eventually, this will poison your relationship.
Communication is a two-way street
These tips will help improve the quality of your relationship if you implement them on a consistent basis. However, to make significant progress, your partner will also need to examine and change their habits.
If they stubbornly cling on to old, unhealthy patterns, it may be time to have an in-depth discussion about what each of you can do differently in your relationship.
If this doesn’t work, a few sessions with a couple’s therapist may help the situation.