Open and honest communication is important for a healthy relationship but “We do not communicate well,” is a common complaint among couples that attend counseling.
All couples DO communicate to an extent, of course, but the challenge is how to communicate effectively and without harming the relationship over the long term. It is possible to speak without feeling we have really been ‘heard’ or ‘acknowledged’, meaning that couples can often feel that their partner does not actually listen to them properly.
So, how do we improve communication for a happier and healthier relationship?
One of the most important changes to make is to improve our listening skills.
Deep, positive relationships can only be developed by listening to each other (Weger, Castle, & Emmett, 2010). So, if there is no communication in your relationship, you both need to ask whether you are truly listening to what your partner is saying. Have you already made up your mind before considering their opinion? Or are you just waiting for your turn to speak?
Here are the most common listening mistakes:
- Daydreaming or thinking of something else (even something as simple as your list of groceries) while another person is speaking
- Thinking of what to say next before your partner has finished
- Judging what the other person is saying
- Listening with a specific goal/outcome already in mind
Active listening is so much more than not talking. It is an art that requires a genuine interest in the other person. In other words, you always need to be curious about your partner in order to understand them, even if their perspective does not always match your own.
Active listening requires:
- Nonverbal involvement (show them you are paying attention)
- Be aware of your body language, not just your own thoughts
- Not being judgmental
- Tolerating silence
- Being Mindful and Present with the other person.
The following exercise can help to revive communication in a relationship: Person A gets ten minutes to talk about their day, while Person B is listening actively and with a genuine interest. Person B is allowed to ask clarifying questions but should not interrupt Person A. If there is a silence, that’s fine. Relax.
After Person A’s ten minutes are up (all of the allotted time needs to be used) then Person B gets to talk for ten minutes as well, with the same listening rules then applying to Person A. You will find that ten minutes is a very long time to listen, but you will also be amazed at how much you learn about each other. Carrying out this exercise adds value to the quality of your relationship and your communication.
Most couples wait too long before they ask for the help they desperately need. Our couples therapists in Miami Beach, Florida specialize in helping couples navigate communication challenges and create a fulfilling, passionate relationship. Call us today!