Couples learn to develop different ways of communication based on their relationship and life experiences. You might be ingrained with bad habits that you’re not even aware of that can deteriorate your relationship overtime. Although couples tend to stick to the same way of communicating over time, you (and your spouse) can learn to communicate in healthier and more effective ways.
Here are some tips to help you become better at communication:
Assess the way you communicate: Do you voice your opinions or remain silent? Do you say yes, even when your schedule is full? Are you quick to judge or blame? Do you seem to dread or fear talking to your significant other about problems? Before you begin making changes, understand how you’d usually communicate.
Use ‘I’ statements: Using “I” statements will let he/she know what you’re thinking or feeling without accusing them. For instance, say, “I disagree,” rather than, “You’re wrong.” If you have a request, say “I would like you to help me,” rather than “You need to help me.” Keep your requests as simple and specific as possible.
Practice saying what you feel: If you have a hard time turning down requests, try saying, “No, thank you.” Don’t hesitate. Be direct if asked for an explanation. Keep it simple.
Rehearse what you want to say: If it’s too challenging to say what you want or think, practice in the mirror or visualize typical scenarios you would encounter. Say what you want to say out loud as it helps bring you confidence. Consider role-playing with a friend and ask for feedback.
Use non-spoken language: Communication isn’t just verbal. You can write it out, so you can practice by yourself. Act confident with your body language, even if you aren’t feeling it. Keep an upright posture, maintain eye contact, and hold a neutral or positive facial expression. Practice your body language in front of a mirror or with a friend.
Keep your emotions in check: Conflict is hard if you get upset, angry, or frustrated, Although these feelings are normal, they can get in the way of resolving conflict. If you feel too emotional going into a situation, take a few deep breaths, and count to 100. Wait a bit, if possible, then work on the situation. Keep your voice even and firm.
Start small, then work your way up: Try to practice your new skills in situations that are low risk. For instance, try out your new ways of communication on your partner or friend when deciding on something trivial. Evaluate yourself and then tweak your approach.
Remember, learning to communicate with your partner takes a lot of time and patience. If you’ve spent years staying silent, becoming more assertive won’t happen overnight. If certain issues such as anger, stress, anxiety, or fear are not improving, consider talking with a couple’s counselor. The payoff will be worth it by having open communication, expressing your true feelings and needs more easily, and getting more of what you want as a result.