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We need to talk: Tips for effective communication in relationships

Relationships are emotional, and the stakes can be high. Whether it’s a friend or romantic partner, it’s not abnormal to find yourself making decisions with your heart instead of your head. The key to managing your feelings, and your relationships, is communication.

Relationships can be challenging because processing and effectively expressing your thoughts and feelings can be very difficult. That’s where effective communication comes in. Communicating your needs keeps you all on the same page, ensuring your needs are being acknowledged and satisfied.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list or ironclad strategy, but these few tips will set you on the right path to healthy, effective communication. If you believe you need more help in managing your relationship, consider couples counseling or individual therapy as a way of working through the roadblocks.

Couple communicates

Make a plan

Take a breath and count to ten. It may be difficult, but taking a pause gives you time to make well-thought-out decisions that will benefit you in the long run. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s certainly true with communication. When emotions run high, a good game plan beforehand can help you stay on track in the heat of the moment.

Remember these tips when you’re trying to calm your mind before speaking:

  • Set up a conversation at a mutually agreeable time and place.
  • Don’t surprise your partner with the conversation. Let them know beforehand what event or topic you want to discuss so they have time to prepare for the discussion just like you do.
  • Think about your intention: What do you hope to accomplish?
  • Enter the discussion with a positive frame of mind. Remember your goals not just for the conversation itself but for the relationship in the long run.
  • Keep an open mind and stay flexible. Be sure to listen as much as you talk.

Do you have your goals and game plan sorted out? If so, it’s time to start communicating.

A couple has a discussion
Etienne Boulanger/Unsplash

Having the conversation

Communication is a skill, and becoming good at it takes practice. Whether your relationship is rocky or close to perfect, effective communication is critical. In either case, a little forethought and structure can be a huge ally in ensuring a good conversation.

Keep the following tips in mind while you’re having a difficult conversation:

  • Avoid ranting or going off-topic. Stay focused on the matter at hand.
  • Use concrete examples to clearly illustrate your issues or questions.
  • Incorporate positive aspects of the relationship into the conversation, not just the negative.
  • Don’t avoid talking candidly about your feelings — your partner won’t know what’s going on in your head until you tell them.
  • Ask questions and give them ample time and space to respond.
  • Be prepared to acknowledge your own mistakes and shortcomings.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Try to understand your partner’s perspective and remember that they may have a different goal or perspective in mind. Listening with empathy increases the chances that both of you will leave happier than you arrived.
Couple looks at the moon
Jakob Owens/Unsplash

Evaluating the results and next steps

When all is said and done, don’t forget to acknowledge the accomplishment. Celebrate a job well done, on both sides, and spend some one-on-one time relaxing or doing a shared activity.

By the same token, if you didn’t get the result you envisioned, don’t beat yourself up. You can only control your own actions and perceptions, not those of your partner. The best thing you can do is learn from the experience and come back smarter and stronger next time.

There’s no single path to effective communication. A fair and balanced conversation is much more likely to result in a good outcome and creates an expectation of calm, empathetic discussions in the future, but at the end of the day, only you know yourself, your relationship, and your own unique needs. These are just guideposts to help you get where you want to go, so try out these tips and tricks but don’t be afraid to consult a counselor or therapist for more advice.

Disclaimer: BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

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Scott Harris
Scott Harris is a freelance writer based near Washington, DC, with more than a decade of experience covering health…
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