Whether conducted in the United States or anywhere else, most surveys indicate the number one reason for divorce is poor communication. However, beyond having different communication styles, issues often develop when both partners aren’t comfortable discussing their feelings. If that isn’t incentive to improve communication skills, I’m not sure what is then.
The good news is, talking about feelings is not the only (or even necessarily the best), way for couples to maintain a happy and healthy relationship. While there are dozens of strategies you can implement to improve your communication skills, below are 5 strategies that anyone can do in virtually in any situation.
keys to improve communication skills in your relationships
1. Be mindful of your tone
How you say something can be just as important as what you say. Like other nonverbal cues (body language, facial expression, eye contact, etc.), your tone can either emphasize what you say, or it can completely undermine it.
Tone is especially important in workplace disagreements. Well-chosen words with a positive connotation can create goodwill and trust. Poorly chosen words with unclear or negative connotations can quickly lead to misunderstandings.
Your tone includes volume, projection, and intonation as well as word choice. Parents know best that it can be challenging to control tone to ensure it matches your intent in many situations. However, being mindful of your tone will enable you to alter it appropriately if communication seems to be going in the wrong direction.
2. Small Talk Offers Big Gains
It’s easy to assume that chit-chatting over the impending winter storm or the big game is far from connecting emotionally. However the truth is, small talk can positively impact communication even more than discussion about feelings. Many couples find it easier to reconnect over the mundane events of life rather than during a serious discussion, most likely because they each feel safer in the mundane space
The key is to engage during these small talk sessions. Be interested and curious. Ask questions. Doing this lets your partner know they matter and you care. Because in the end, our lives are woven together by strings of insignificant incidents.
3. Beware of your nonverbal cues
Facial expressions, gestures, and body language can, and often do, communicate more than words. It’s been estimated that nonverbal cues can have between 65-95% more impact than the spoken word! And, when we’re in a disagreement, we’re more likely to believe the nonverbal signals over spoken words. So taking care to be aware of how your communicating through these methods is crucial if you want to improve communication skills.
4. Share Commonalities
Did you know that you can feel closer to your partner just by discussing shared experiences? So the next time you want to connect with your spouse, you can, for example reminisce about happy memories with your children.
Did you also know that words aren’t even necessary for shared experiences to improve relationships? Silent communication from enjoying an experience can also help you connect. Something like riding bikes, going to a movie on date night, or even shopping for a new dining room table can help you connect too.
5. Balance Asking & Offering
Good communication is like a dance where each person takes turns leading. This means sometimes YOU need to offer up the goods and share something. It could be something as simple as what happened to you in line yesterday at grocery stores or something bothering you about work.
Other times, let your partner share something. Be sure to ask questions and actually LISTEN to the answers. If you don’t understand something said, ask for clarification. This is the best way to show you care and are engaged.
Don’t let the simplicity of these strategies fool you. If you regularly implement these techniques, you’ll find your skills improve and your relationships deepen. But, if you feel you need more guidance when it comes to communication, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you build stronger, more meaningful relationships.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in Greater New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.