Healthy Communication Skills in Relationships: How To Be Heard (2023)

Healthy Communication Skills in Relationships: How To Be Heard (1)

Brooke Babins

Dating, Featured, Gentlemen, Ladies, Relationships

Without healthy communication, a relationship (or budding relationship) could fail. Unhealthy or poor communications skills are very common, and if you don’t know how to communicate effectively with your partner, you’re not alone.

In fact, the most common reason a couple will seek therapy tends to be a communication breakdown in the relationship. Without being armed with healthy communication skills, one or both parties often feels like they are not being heard, and their needs are not being met. To an outside observer, the couple may seem to be communicating just fine. However, are they communicating in a way that will get them heard and understood?

(Video) Communication In Relationships: 7 Keys To Effective Communication

Understanding how to be heard while communicating with your partner is a skill many people need to learn, and qualified counselors can help you develop this skill of healthy communication. Conflict resolution skills could change everything.

Why is Healthy Communication Difficult For So Many Couples?

When our emotions are running high because we’re upset about something, our emotional state can impede our ability to use healthy communication skills when we approach our loved one with an issue.

When we’re frustrated or feeling unheard, we might also go into a conversation without a true understanding of our own needs, wants, and intended outcomes. Alternatively, we know exactly what we want and still don’t get it, even if we have communicated about it hundreds of times. If you have found yourself on either side of this equation, this article might be for you. Let’s go beyond what we need and dive into how to communicate in a manner where we are going to feel heard. We need to learn effective communication skills that will result in some type of satisfactory resolution.

Without healthy communication in play, conflict can escalate instead of resolve.

You’ve likely heard the expression, It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. This is good advice, but there is a bit more to it. How you say things is only one component of effective communication. What you say is just as important. The what is the main reason you are trying to speak to someone, therefore be sure you know what you’re trying to communicate. Know what your priorities are in having the conversation, and don’t lose sight of your end goal. Most importantly understand and communicate why it is important to you, and important to the relationship. Simply put: communicate what the issue is and what you need or want out of the conversation.

Some people are naturally great communicators. However, it’s extremely common to fall short in the communication skills department as well – no matter how intelligent or emotionally intelligent you are.

Understanding how to communicate the right way will help you avoid inadvertently communicating in a way that pushes your partner away. Communication skills can make or break a relationship.

Below are some tips that can help you better communicate and express yourself in a relationship:

1. Express Your Feelings, Not Demands

One of the biggest things that gets in the way of effective communication of a need is one person feeling attacked or burdened. Healthy communication skills involve phrasing something in a way that doesn’t come across as an attack or a demand.

Someone can easily feel attacked if the other person doesn’t possess healthy communication skills, and doesn’t know how to communicate their issue the right way.

This is especially challenging in the beginning of a relationship. You are testing the waters with a new person and want to make sure you get what you need out of this new relationship, but you also don’t want to sound too needy or pushy. Everyone feels that way, and there’s a very simple way to deal with it. For example: maybe the person you have been dating has not texted you in a few days.

(Video) Skills for Healthy Romantic Relationships | Joanne Davila | TEDxSBU

Your first instinct might be to ask them, “Why haven’t you texted me back?”, but tread lightly with this, as this can be interpreted as combative or demanding they text you. Instead, express how it makes you feel when you don’t hear from them.

For example, a healthier and more effective way of communicating is:

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you, and getting texts from you when I’m at work makes my day. When we go days without talking, I feel a little down.”

Follow up with a specific goal such as,

“Can we agree to text more as we get to know each other?”

This style of communication is effective because it’s not combative in nature, it takes away the blame, and will help avoid situations where Mr. Does-Not-Text shuts down rather than addresses the issue. Now it has become a request, rather than demand.

Try to be patient and wait to have the conversation in person. Communication via text message is not likely the best option.

Healthy Communication Skills in Relationships: How To Be Heard (2)

2. Learn Healthy Communication Skills and Avoid Unhealthy Communication

Healthy communication can save a relationship, while unhealthy communication can destroy it. Whether that’s unhealthy communication in the form of being too accusatory or too combative, or giving the silent treatment which is often the silent killer of relationships – be cognizant of the way you communicate.

Make the decision to learn healthy communication skills, whether that’s through couples counseling, individual counseling, reading, or practicing.

Whenever possible, do not give the silent treatment or stonewall your partner or the person you’re dating. These are examples of unhealthy communication. Avoid raised voices and be sure to avoid assumptions or accusations. Be mindful of non-verbal language (i.e. eye rolling and scoffing) and stay away from sarcasm and put-downs.

3. Listen and Validate

If you want to be heard in a relationship, you also need to listen. Whether you’re simply asking your partner how their day went, or making a request about something that’s important to you, they too want to feel heard and understood. For example, imagine you and your partner just moved in together and have been struggling with sharing a bedroom for the first time. One of you likes heavy blankets and snores, the other person uses their reading lamp before bed —– you both need to work together to figure out how you can co-sleep in a way that works, and feel rested. Making changes (separate blankets, earplugs, an eye mask, a dimmer reading light) is the first step, but you must also check-in with one another to see how these changes are working. Simply asking, “How did you sleep last night?” does not leave much room for the other person to express themselves if they struggle with communication.

(Video) Couples Therapist | 10 Tips For Good Communication!

It would be more helpful to ask open-ended questions such as: “What worked well last night with our sleeping arrangement?” This way, you might avoid the one-word answer that good communicators dread: “fine.” If you are giving your partner space to communicate, make sure you’re actively listening and validating their feelings in return. The tricky part of validation is that you need to remember that you can validate them even if you don’t agree with what they are saying. Read that again if you need to.

How do you do this? Validate the emotion they’re expressing, not the statement itself. Returning to our example, your partner may respond to your question about the sleeping arrangements in a negative way, “Nothing worked! This is stupid!” In this case, you would not want to validate that “this is stupid.” Instead, recognize the emotion behind this statement, which in this case is frustration. An example of a response: “It sounds like you are frustrated with this situation, and I can understand why you would feel this way.” By acknowledging and validating your partner’s emotional experience, you are communicated that their experience matters.

You’re not dismissing their experience or their feelings, and they’ll feel heard.

4. Clarify Your Priorities

Before you go into a specific interaction, figure out what your priorities are. Should you be prioritizing your relationship, your partner, or do you need to prioritize yourself? Likely, if you are trying to be heard in a relationship, you want to maintain the relationship, therefore the relationship is the priority. And if you need to prioritize yourself, well, that may be a different conversation altogether.

Relationships require a healthy amount of give and take to work, so when you’re prioritizing the relationship, compromise should be expected.

5. Identify Your Goal

Ask yourself this: what are you hoping to accomplish with your partner? Is there something you need your partner to do for you, or stop doing? Perhaps you simply want your partner to take out the trash. Great! Your goal is, “Get my partner to take out trash.”

Are you just hoping your partner will sit down with you and share how their day went? Great! The goal is better communication. The nature of your goal will likely change how and when you approach your partner. If you want the trash taken out, it’s probably not the best idea to ask them as they get into bed. Having a specific goal in mind is key to effective communication. It is also a necessary part of managing your own expectations. If you don’t have a specific goal in mind going into a conversation, you likely will be dissatisfied no matter what your partner does.

Healthy Communication Skills in Relationships: How To Be Heard (3)

6. Be Specific and Concise

Let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill by communicating in an exaggerated or vague manner. If you want to communicate a need or a frustration to your partner, keep it simple, specific, and on topic.

For example, if you are upset because your partner stayed out all night and did not text you, communicate the specifics. Avoid going off about all the times they have done this, or other ways they don’t meet your needs. Stick to a specific incidence in which your partner stayed out too late.

Good communication sounds like: “The other night when you didn’t come home until 2 a.m., I got worried and felt disrespected.”

Bad communication sounds like: “You always stay out too late and never text me.”

(Video) How Not to Be Defensive in Relationships

The more specific you are with a request or a concern, the more likely it is that the other person will be able to meet your needs, and the more concise you are, the more likely you’ll be heard.

For example, imagine this scenario: one partner feels they are doing more around the house than the other and they make vague statements such as, “I do more work around the house” or, “I wish you would clean up more.” While this expresses the issue, there is no direct request. It is unclear what steps the partner who is not cleaning enough could take to solve the problem.

Imagine the results if you got more specific. Instead, one should ask their partner to do a load of laundry on Thursday nights. This directedness leaves no room for interpretation, and you are effectively communicating an exact need.

7. Don’t Respond to a Need with a Need

This may be the most important tip in this article. Expressing concerns in a relationship should not ever be tit-for-tat. If your partner brings up a concern to you, focus on that. Don’t take this as an opportunity to express your concerns about them. Our brains can only process so much information at once.

In other words, when communicating with your partner, sometimes less is more! Learning how to communicate the healthy way requires an understanding that less is more, because if you don’t overwhelm your partner, they’re more likely to hear you. If you are frustrated because your partner leaves their shoes in the middle of the hallway, say that. Don’t go off about how messy they are all the time, or how they never pick up their things.

Furthermore, responding to a partner’s need with your own can come off as selfish and defensive, as you are both focussing on yourself while avoiding addressing each other’s needs. When you respond to their needs with one of your own, they certainly won’t feel heard. If what they say brings up something for you, it might be best to save that conversation for a different day.

8. Remember That They Can’t Read Your Mind

Despite what you might think, your partner does not always know what you’re thinking. What might be obvious to you is not always obvious to them. If you don’t know what your partner is feeling, ask them. We may think we are communicating a need by rolling our eyes when the house is messy, or by making passive comments like, “I never see you anymore.” But we aren’t —– something is being assumed here, and will likely get lost in translation. More often than not, couples will comment that the other person “Should have known”. We are not fortune-tellers (and even if you are, you probably can’t tell the future). So don’t assume your partner is. Shutting down, being passive-aggressive, or acting angry to “make them understand” is toxic and unhealthy. If you want to communicate, be open, direct, and don’t assume that what you’re thinking is obvious. Many relationship conflicts could be avoided if we let go of this assumption! In fact, many relationship conflicts could be avoided if we asked questions instead of assuming things – in general.

9. Express How This Could Benefit You Both

If you are able to get your specific needs met in the conversation and communicate effectively, the relationship is more likely to succeed. For example, if your goal is to have your partner be “unplugged” when hanging out, make sure to let them know how this will benefit both of you. Although this request is a need you want to be met, you are more likely to get what you want if you make it clear as to how this will benefit both of you. In this case, being “unplugged” while spending time together will strengthen communication, allow you both to spend quality time together without distractions, make each person in the relationship feel like a priority, and ultimately make your relationship stronger and improve your bond.

10. Compromise, Because Relationships are About Give and Take

Is there room for some give and take? Some people forget how crucial give and take is in a relationship. Coming to an understanding is the goal of most communication. Whether you are addressing a conflict in your relationship or having a discussion about what kind of dog you would adopt, ultimately some sort of compromise could be in the best interest of both of you. You want a date night every Saturday night, your partner can’t commit to that. Is there a middle ground you are willing to come to in order to move forward? Date night every two weeks?

11. Sometimes, it’s Okay to Go to Bed Angry

Common advice when it comes to healthy relationships is: “Never go to bed angry.” This can often be more harmful than helpful. Sometimes, going to bed angry and taking space from a conversation that is not going anywhere is exactly what we need. Perhaps if you didn’t resume tomorrow, all that would happen is that the conflict would escalate instead of resolve.

When emotions are high, we tend to lose the ability to communicate effectively. In this case, both parties can agree to literally put the conversation to bed and come back to it in the morning. More often than not, couples admit to saying things they don’t mean in the heat of the moment. Or, they mean it, but it has come out the wrong way. There is a point when our emotions run so hot that we are unable to access the reasonable part of our brains. When the emotional center in the brain is on fire, so is our attitude and lack of patience. Our emotions are serving an important purpose in this instance and letting us know it’s likely not the best time to be hashing anything out. Listen to your gut and walk away. Come back when emotions calm down and you’re able to think with facts instead of feelings.Ultimately, communication is a skill, and all skills take practice. This is not a one-stop shop for being the best communicator, but rather a guide to make you more mindful about you and your partner’s communication styles. Keep in mind we can only control how we communicate, we can’t control how one responds to our communication! If you are having trouble communicating, consider reaching out to a qualified therapist to help guide you towards healthier communication habits.

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FAQs

What are 3 effective communication skills for maintaining healthy relationships? ›

According to each expert, people exhibit good communication when they: Pay attention and listen while their partner speaks. Listen to understand, rather than listen to respond. Validate their partner's thoughts and feelings (often by acknowledging and repeating back some of what was said)

What are the five tips for effective communications across all our relationship? ›

5 Tips for Effective Communication
  • Be Present. This one sounds so simple and it is. ...
  • Really Listen. So often when we are in conversation with someone, our minds move easily to other places. ...
  • Seek to Understand. ...
  • Use Active/Reflective Listening. ...
  • Practice Silence. ...
  • About the Author.
19 Dec 2019

Why communication is important in a relationship? ›

Communication is important in any relationship, as it allows you to effectively share feelings, opinions and expectations. Many people fail to communicate due to a fear of rejection or the fear that they'll end up upsetting or even losing their partner, family members or friends.

What is an example of good communication in a relationship? ›

Talk about the little things

One of the great communication skills in relationships is when you and your partner can talk about the little things as well as the big things. You can strengthen your marriage by talking about your day, your thoughts, or share funny stories from your week.

What are the 5 necessary skills for good communication? ›

5 ESSENTIAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS
  • WRITTEN COMMUNICATION. Convey ideas and information through the use of written language.
  • ORAL COMMUNICATION. Convey ideas and information through the use of spoken language.
  • NON-VERBAL AND VISUAL COMMUNICATION. ...
  • ACTIVE LISTENING. ...
  • CONTEXTUAL COMMUNICATION.

What makes a strong communicator? ›

An effective communicator is someone who conveys their message thoroughly and is receptive and responsive to others' input. Those who are strong communicators speak in a clear, direct manner, using easily understood language.

How do you prove you are a good communicator? ›

Effective communicators have open and honest communication, active listening skills, and a friendly tone in conversation to avoid misunderstandings. Deliver good or bad news with empathy, and listen and hear what the other person is saying.

Why is communication so hard in relationships? ›

Lack of awareness

Oftentimes we don't really even know how we are feeling and what we are needing in our relationships. It's so much easier to focus on our partner's behavior and point the finger at them than it is to look inward and really pay attention to our own feelings and needs.

What are the 3 most important parts to good communication? ›

Every human communication interaction, be it face-to-face, written, by telephone, or by other means, has three critical components: Sending Communication, Receiving Communication and Feedback. These are the elements of good communication.

How do you open up emotionally in a relationship? ›

How Do You Open Up In A Relationship?
  1. Get to know yourself and your own feelings. ...
  2. Listen to your partner and acknowledge their own feelings. ...
  3. Share your feelings with your partner. ...
  4. Be open about the pains and fears originating in your past. ...
  5. Honesty is the best policy. ...
  6. Don't be afraid of making emotional mistakes.
26 May 2021

What does healthy communication in a relationship look like? ›

Healthy communication requires communication from both sides of the relationship, not just one. Both partners should have the freedom to say what they think and express their feelings. Good communication doesn't require beating around the bush. You and your partner should be able to say what you feel.

How do you explain communication in a relationship? ›

Communication in relationships, at its core, is about connecting and using your verbal, written and physical skills to fulfill your partner's needs. It's not about making small talk. It's about understanding your partner's point of view, offering support and letting your partner know you are their #1 fan.

Can a relationship survive without good communication? ›

A relationship can't thrive or survive without good communication. Being able to have heart-to-heart talks about big issues, as well as open and honest communication about everything, including the little things (even, and especially, the irritating things) is vital to any healthy relationship.

How do you become a clear communicator? ›

Tips for Being a Clear Communicator:
  1. Listen.
  2. Empathize.
  3. Avoid manipulation. Don't overstate or understate.
  4. Speak honestly and without exaggeration.
  5. Stay focused and avoid distractions.
  6. Ask questions.
  7. Glean information from the non-verbal communication.
  8. Keep an open mind and do not jump to conclusions.

What is the most important communication skill? ›

Listening is one of the most important communication skills that we can acquire because it's the primary way that we develop relationships, understand others, and build trust.

What is it important to have good communication skills? ›

Good communication skills are essential to allow others and yourself to understand information more accurately and quickly. In contrast, poor communication skills lead to frequent misunderstandings and frustration.

What is the importance of good communication skills? ›

Good communication skills in life will ensure everyone around you understands you and you understand them. You will be confident and assertive. There will be less misunderstanding and you will rarely have to face issues that come with poor communication. It will be easy for you to make and keep friends.

How can I be a good communicator naturally? ›

How to Be an Effective Communicator in 7 Easy Steps
  1. Identify Your Objectives. What do you hope to accomplish, either immediately or long term? ...
  2. Listen Actively. Communication isn't just about what you say. ...
  3. Note Your Body Language. ...
  4. Know Your Audience. ...
  5. Pace Yourself. ...
  6. Choose the Right Time. ...
  7. Be Clear.

What are the golden rules of good communicator? ›

Here we go!
  • Listen more, speak less. Stephen R. ...
  • Be fully present. ...
  • Talk with people, not at people. ...
  • Be consistent, but don't repeat yourself too much. ...
  • Use your voice wisely. ...
  • Make it about them. ...
  • Be transparent. ...
  • Ask open-ended questions.
4 Mar 2021

What is the quality of a good communicator? ›

The best communicators are able to concisely get their ideas across, convince others around them to get behind these ideas, and build as well as maintain strong relationships through dialogue. These skills almost always need to be learned, and are even taught in executive MBA programs, for example.

How do you judge someone's communication skills? ›

The following questions can help determine someone's communication skills during an interview:
  1. Tell me about your greatest accomplishment. ...
  2. Describe a time when you faced conflict and how you addressed it. ...
  3. Do you work well with other people? ...
  4. How would you describe yourself? ...
  5. Why are you a good fit for this position?

How do you prove you have good listening skills? ›

10 tips for active listening
  1. Face the speaker and have eye contact. ...
  2. “Listen” to non-verbal cues too. ...
  3. Don't interrupt. ...
  4. Listen without judging, or jumping to conclusions. ...
  5. Don't start planning what to say next. ...
  6. Don't impose your opinions or solutions. ...
  7. Stay focused. ...
  8. Ask questions.

How do I communicate with my partner without fighting? ›

Five proven steps to communicate without fighting
  1. #1: Learn what your needs are first. First, make sure you fully understand what you're needing to get out of your argument. ...
  2. #2: Let the storm pass. ...
  3. #3: Be specific about what you need. ...
  4. #4: Agree on a plan. ...
  5. #5: Recognize your partner's efforts.

What causes less communication in a relationship? ›

Problems with time management, prioritisation and external stresses are some of the most subtle, pernicious reasons why communications can break down in an intimate relationship.

How do I get over my fear of communication in a relationship? ›

There are some things you can do to help you speak up in your relationship, even if you are afraid it might lead to conflict.
  1. Know Yourself. ...
  2. Know What To Let Go. ...
  3. Talk About The Little Things. ...
  4. Have Clear Boundaries. ...
  5. Pick A Good Time. ...
  6. Use Effective Communication Skills.

What makes a relationship successful? ›

Unselfish love, authentic communication, trust and a recognition of triggers from the past are also components of successful relationships. Acknowledging behaviors that are already a part of one's relationship can help a couple embrace others that they may want to attain.

What is the best relationship advice? ›

The Most Important Factor in a Relationship Is Not Communication, But Respect. What I can tell you is the #1 thing . . . is respect. It's not sexual attraction, looks, shared goals, religion or lack of, nor is it love. There are times when you won't feel love for your partner.

What is the core of good communication? ›

Listening is one of the essential elements of effective communication. People who are active or engaged listeners understand things in more detail. It means that active listeners understand what the user is trying to say, even if the speaker is not highly effective.

Which is the most important key element of communication? ›

An important point to remember is that when communication is only verbal the most important element of communication… body language…is left out. If the communication is written, then both body language and voice inflection are left out.

How do you bring your partner closer together? ›

6 Ways To Grow Closer To Your Partner
  1. Communicate and Listen to Them. ...
  2. Show Interest in Their Hobbies and Passions. ...
  3. Plan Things to Look Forward To. ...
  4. Start Dating Again. ...
  5. Bring Back the Romance. ...
  6. Get Outside Support.
26 May 2020

How do I make myself emotionally strong in a relationship? ›

Here are some tips to help you reenergize your emotional being.
  1. Realize where you are. ...
  2. Take a break. ...
  3. Calm yourself. ...
  4. Hang out with people who love you. ...
  5. Get a complete physical. ...
  6. Try something different. ...
  7. Write down your worries. ...
  8. Write down what is working for you in your life.
21 Oct 2017

How do I connect with my partner on a deeper level? ›

How to Communicate and Connect Deeper with Your Partner
  1. Ask Open-ended Questions. Having a deeper conversation would mean allowing your partner to express themselves more freely. ...
  2. Be A Good Listener; Empathise With Your Partner Without Judging. ...
  3. Prioritise These Conversations.

What are the 3 basic communication skills? ›

Communication Involves Three Components:
  • Verbal Messages - the words we choose.
  • Paraverbal Messages - how we say the words.
  • Nonverbal Messages - our body language.

What are the 3 C's in a healthy relationship? ›

A strong and healthy relationship is built on the three C's: Communication, Compromise and Commitment. Think about how to use communication to make your partner feel needed, desired and appreciated.

What is the most important skill in communication? ›

Listening is one of the most important communication skills that we can acquire because it's the primary way that we develop relationships, understand others, and build trust.

What are positive communication skills? ›

For communication to be effective, it must be clear, correct, complete, concise, and compassionate. We consider these to be the 5 C's of communication, though they may vary depending on who you're asking.

What is a good communication? ›

It involves the distribution of messages clearly and concisely, in a way that connects with the audience. Good communication is about understanding instructions, acquiring new skills, making requests, asking questions and relaying information with ease.

What are the five A's in a relationship? ›

The 5 "As": Acceptance, Affection, Appreciation, Approval, and Attention: The Journey to Emotional Fulfillment.

What are the five pillars of a healthy relationship? ›

Although relationships tend to differ from couple to couple, the trademark of any healthy romantic partnership comes in the form of five specific pillars on which everything else must be built, namely: love, trust, communication, intimacy, and integrity.

What are 5 elements of a healthy relationship? ›

5 Key Elements to Build and Maintain Healthy Relationships in...
  • Trust. Trust is a foundational building block of relationships because it allows you to be open and vulnerable without the fear of needing to protect yourself. ...
  • Respect. ...
  • Safety. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Asking for help.
25 Jan 2022

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5. The Easiest Way to Improve Your Relationship | The Gottman Institute
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