Often times when a couple comes in to see me for counseling, one of the biggest things they are trying to work through is how to communicate better with one another. This could be from not getting enough time together to talk throughout the week, not knowing how to express their needs without getting into an argument, or being unable to respectfully listen to their partner when they disagree and hold different opinions and values. While having better communication with your partner is a very broad topic, there are specific areas you can focus on to help with your overall communication patterns on a larger scale.
Practice Active Listening
One aspect of active listening is when you are focusing on someone and what they’re saying without thinking of your response (this is one of the first things that goes out the window when we get into arguments). It’s hard to practice active listening when we have racing thoughts or are concerned about making sure our partner listens to us. But one way to practice active listening is to focus on what your partner says, and then give a summary of what you heard. Using a statement like “It sounds to me like you’re saying _____” and then summarizing will help your partner to feel understood and help you to focus in the moment as they’re talking to you.
Share the Little Moments
Whether it’s talking about an interesting conversation you had with a coworker, what you ate for lunch, or a recent news story that caught your attention, sharing the little moments with your partner helps to create a sense of connection and togetherness even if it is connection over seemingly insignificant things. Building in these smaller moments of connection will help you to feel more in tune with your partner and connect more deeply when you’re able to sit down and have a longer conversation.
Adjust Your Body Language
Our body language speaks volumes about not only our mood and internal thoughts, but also about how we are feeling towards another person. When you’re talking with your partner, start to notice what is going on with your body language and what it may be communicating to your partner. Uncrossing your arms will make you look more open and inviting since crossed arms can act as a subtle barrier between you are others. Similarly, using eye contact and nodding your head as your partner is talking will show them that you care and are tracking in the conversation. Putting the phone down and making eye contact with an open body posture are a few things that can go a long way in communicating the message of “I’m open to what you have to say.”
Use Feeling Language
If you have feedback for your partner about something they did that hurt you, or how you wish they would have acted, focus the conversation around how you felt when they did the particular thing that bothered you. It’s a lot more vulnerable to share about your own feelings by using language like “I feel sad when ____” or “I feel like I’m not special to you when ____” but this will also help you and your partner to put down your defenses and listen to how you are impacting each other. Most people tend to feel more empathy when they hear about vulnerable emotions like sadness, fear, or loneliness rather than anger or annoyance.
If you find yourself struggling to communicate well with your partner, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our therapists individually or to seek couples counseling at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry Counseling today to get matched with one of our skilled therapists.