Communication is a crucial skill that cultivates growth in an abundance of areas in our lives. Whether it be in relationships, in the workplace, or as a member of our community, our ability to communicate in the most effective way possible will continue to serve us across our lifetime. Especially in romantic relationships, proper communication can manifest equanimity and serenity which will strengthen the relationship like nothing else.
When considering the complexity we engage in during intimate communication, it’s actually quite amazing. Two people who have extreme emotional feelings towards one another and who each have their own unique way of thinking about the same thing are coming together to exchange their thoughts. If we want to be effective at communicating it’s up to us to introduce our ideas and convey our perspective in a calm and respectful way, seeking to avoid conflict and aiming for understanding.
Furthermore, when we are listening to our significant other, we can also focus on listening skills and practices to help them feel comfortable and successful while communicating with us. Prompt and effective communication is essential in keeping our relationships strong and fulfilling.
1. How will it make them feel?
Before we say anything to our loved one the first task should be finding the appropriate way to express ourselves in a way that won’t intentionally hurt them. We should refrain from being snarky or sarcastic and taking an aggressive tone of voice. Even if they have upset us in some way, chances are they didn’t do it on purpose or don’t realize how it made us feel. Rather than continuing the cycle of unpleasant dialogue, let us be the one who stops it; the faster we move on from this kind of speech the stronger our relationship can become.
2. Is it the right time?
Not everything needs to be expressed immediately. Perhaps something has happened that we don’t agree with or that we feel as though we need to address with our loved one. If the situation doesn’t compliment what we need to say then we should wait until it does. We can think of the circumstances like soil and the idea we want to express as a seed. If we don’t wait until the soil is fertile our seed will not take root and may even cause more harm than good. Only when our partner and the current conditions allow for a discussion should we start one.
3. Is it negative or focused on ourself?
Rather than using negative words, we should try to rephrase our speech in a positive way. When we’re expressing ourselves it’s important to avoid using contractions; use can instead of can’t or will instead of won’t. For instance, if we want to talk about something our partner did which didn’t please us, we can instead try focusing on what would please us in the future.
Negative way: I don’t like it when you’re on your phone during our time together.
Positive way: It would make me happy if you’d be more attentive during our time together.
Furthermore, rather than saying something that’s focused on ourselves, we should try to say it in a way that lets our partner know that we’re just as concerned with how they’re feeling as well. It’s okay to use “I” and “me” at times, but let’s be sure that it’s not our complete focus.
“I” centered way: Why are you yelling at me? It’s really annoying.
“We” centered way: You seem irritated by what I said, how can I make you feel better?
It’s not always easy or even possible to do this, but letting someone know what we would like rather than what we don’t like, and reminding them of our attention to their feelings as well as ours will make it much easier to for them to receive our message in a constructive way.
4. Are we being straightforward and honest?
Nobody is a mind reader. If we want our partner to understand us or expect them to know how we feel about something we have to let them know ourselves. We cannot give contextual hints, or say things in a passive-aggressive way; we have to be blunt, straightforward, and tell them honestly. As long as we are still being respectful of their feelings and calm in the way we speak to them, we will begin to understand each other much better. If something bothers us, we must make it known; if we want our partner to do something for us, we should ask; there’s no likely outcome that our significant other will be able to tell exactly what it is that we want and please us if we don’t tell them first.
5. Is it possible that we’re wrong?
We’ve all been there: deep in the heat of an argument or discussion, we start to realize that maybe we’re wrong after all. The good news is, everybody is wrong from time to time, and there’s no harm in it. Finding out we were wrong about something gives us an opportunity to learn and get it right the next time around. If we’re seeking harmony in our relationships and we can see a mistake in our argument, it’s better to let go of our pride and admit that we overlooked something, or that our partner convinced us otherwise. Additionally, this stops the argument in its tracks and our relationships can move on to more productive purposes.
6. Is the perspective too difficult to explain?
Have you ever seen an amazing movie or read a great book that you immediately want to tell someone about? Unfortunately, no matter how good we are at explaining, the other person just isn’t going to be able to enjoy what we experienced the same way that we did. Each of us has a unique set of experiences and a resulting perspective due them. Even though many of the experiences we’ve had are relatable and common, there are some perspectives we have that are due to a very unique set of experiences that we’ve been through at a specific right time being surrounded by specific people. If we’ve tried to explain something to our partner and they just can’t understand it the way we do, we just learn to drop it. We don’t have to understand everything about our loved ones, just accept them for who they are if we want to stay with them.
7. How long are we planning on talking?
If we’re feeling very strongly about something, it can be easy to lose track of time once we engage in a discussion about it. Unfortunately, the longer we talk about something doesn’t make our argument any stronger or easier to accept. In fact, if we talk for too long our partner may find it hard to concentrate on what we’re saying or may feel pressured to remember everything without a chance to ask a question. We want to set our partner up for success and make it easier for them to pay attention to us. It can be difficult to sit through such a discourse without mentally disengaging from time to time, so we should give our partner many opportunities to confirm they are listening and to ask questions. In this way we can speak as efficiently as possible and straight to the point; rather than over-explaining ourselves and giving our partner a headache we should let them ask for further clarification or follow-up questions.
8. Pay close attention to what they say.
In the same breath, when our partner is explaining their perspective to us we must treat the moment very carefully. To ensure they are feeling heard and validated we should periodically affirm that we are listening and paying attention. Silence any distractions like cell phones, laptops, televisions, and make sure to make eye contact. Don’t make any faces at what they say, instead use your words if they’ve said something you don’t agree with. Regardless of whether you agree with them or not, their feelings are valid and by maintaining eye contact with a neutral facial expression and ensuring them that you’re listening you are affirming their validity and making them feel much more confident and comfortable about what they’re sharing.
9. Is it rooted in remembrance that we love them?
Whatever it is that we end up talking about with our significant other one thing will always stay the same: we love them and we will always support them. If we reach a disagreement its perfectly fine to have a discussion about it and try to understand one another by sharing our unique perspectives. What we have to remember though is that although arguments can get heated and even downright nasty, we are in this relationship for a reason. We love our partner and we should make sure that even while arguing, we remind them that we are their number one support. We don’t have to agree with their opinion or perspective to support them as a person.
10. Did they ask for our opinion?
Not every situation needs a reaction or response. If our partner is expressing their opinion or saying something that’s on their mind, it’s up to our discretion on how we want to react; however, we should keep in mind that unless they asked for our opinion we don’t have to share it. Sometimes if our partner is rambling on about this or that or expressing a criticism about something, the urge may feel natural for us to argue or disagree with them. We have to remember that what they said isn’t about us though, and everyone should be entitled to express themselves without getting attacked for their view. We’re never going to agree with our partner on everything so let’s try to remember that sometimes its okay to let them say their piece and just accept their opinion without sharing our own.
By practicing mindfulness with these ten guidelines, we can begin to nurture our relationships and slowly move them towards a more harmonious and peaceful future. Above all, a relationship is about both people in it. If one person isn’t happy the relationship isn’t thriving. If one person isn’t being heard or doesn’t feel confident in expressing themselves, then honesty and transparency cannot flourish. Through respecting each other and listening well while expressing ourselves respectfully we can rest assured that our relationship is on the fast-track to living up to its true potential.