Why Effective Communication Skills Are Essential for a Healthy Relationship

What does poor communication look like in a relationship?

One of the most common complaints I hear in couples counselling is that poor communication between partners is causing serious arguments. Couples often come to therapy sessions to learn how to more effectively speak to one another and to, ideally, translate that improved communication into fewer and less severe fights.

What people say most frequently is that one or the other partner is doing at least one of the following things:

  1. Not Listening
  2. Using condescending or rude language
  3. Shutting down

Here are two EASY and EFFECTIVE skills to cultivate better communication with anyone:

How can I improve my relationship communication?

Active Listening & Reflective Listening

Active Listening is when you listen with full attention and with presence. This means that you are making eye contact, if possible, you are keeping your mind focused on the present moment and the person who is speaking, and you are as “neutral” as you can be so as not to convey a negative or unpleasant attitude to the other. Active listening sends a message that you are taking-in what they are saying and that you care enough to give them all your attention for the time being.

Reflective Listening is when you say back to the other person (almost) word for word what they said to you. It is one of the skills of motivational interviewing, a modality of treatment in counselling. It doesn’t need to be complicated or overthought. When you are “reflecting” something back to someone you are speaking to, you are simply handing them back their words to them.

So they might say something like, “I don’t like when you talk to me that way”, and you would say back to them, “You don’t like it when I talk to you that way.”. And typically, the first person will go on to explain why they feel the way they do. And that will be your opportunity to also reflect that back as well. They might say, “It hurts me when you use that tone of voice.” And you would then say, “It hurts you when I use that tone of voice”.  It sounds almost too simple to be true, but when you reflect words back, you make the other person feel heard and understood- a feeling that is paramount to excellent communication. I will say that it may feel a little awkward at first. We tend to feel compelled to be defensive first and foremost and say things to defend ourselves or to defend how other people see us. But, truly, most of the time, this doesn’t lead to great communication.

Communication is an essential component of a healthy and successful relationship. Many couples struggle with communication issues, which can lead to arguments and misunderstandings. However, there are simple and effective skills that couples can cultivate to improve their communication, such as active and reflective listening. By actively listening to your partner and reflecting their words back to them, you can make them feel heard and understood. While it may feel awkward at first, practicing these skills on easy subjects can help you become more comfortable and natural with them, even in more difficult situations. With practice and patience, these skills can help couples build stronger connections and resolve conflicts more effectively.

Give active and reflective listening a try on “easy” subjects first. As you get comfortable with these skills when there is no disagreement, it will come more naturally to you when things get a bit heated with your partner.

If you wish to discuss any issues mentioned, do not hesitate to reach out to us and see how we can help you improve on your communication with your partner and others.