Learning how to communicate with your partner in a healthy way can significantly improve your relationship. Be patient with yourself as you learn these skills and know that it takes time for this new way of communicating to stick.
To communicate with your partner successfully, you will first need to understand your own needs. Think about how you process information and how you convey your thoughts to those around you.
If you're an internal processor, you like to take your time and think about your responses before answering someone. You may even rehearse what you have to say in your head or aloud before saying it. You may find that others may speak over you, or get frustrated with your response time. Letting your partner know how you process information can help them better understand how to communicate with you.
If you're an external processor you like to talk through things aloud. You may not necessarily need a response from your partner immediately as you work through what you are trying to say. You may slip up and say something that accidentally hurts your partner's feelings as you work through what it is that you're trying to convey.
Identifying Your Emotions
Before you begin chatting with your partner, check in with yourself. Do a quick body scan and see if any part of your body is carrying any tension. To do so, close your eyes and begin focusing on your feet and working your way up to your head noticing if any part of you feels more tense or stressed. Then, identify what emotions are coming up for you. Connecting with your body can help you better identify your emotions and their intensity so you can successfully articulate your feelings to your partner.
I statements allow you to tell your partner what's going on with you emotionally without placing blame on them. This creates a more receptive environment for your partner. To create an "I" statement:
- Identify what emotions are coming up for you.
- Identify what triggered your reaction.
- Use the template: "I feel (insert emotion) when this (insert situation happens)."
Understanding Your Partner
Besides being connected to yourself and articulating your feelings, it's important to be receptive to hearing your partner out. This makes for a respectful, open environment where you both feel comfortable being vulnerable with each other.
It can be challenging not to begin thinking of a response when someone starts speaking, especially during a heated conversation. To fully engage with your partner, use active listening skills. This means listening to them without judgment and then paraphrasing what they have said to you to ensure that you completely understand. You can begin paraphrasing by saying:
- "I hear you saying...."
- "My understanding of what you're saying is..."
- "Let me see if I get what you're saying..."
If you aren't sure what your partner is saying, it's important to ask. Sometimes it can be difficult to ask clarifying questions if you feel emotionally charged about what they're talking about. Keep in mind that asking questions can help you work through whatever you are talking about together. You can try asking:
- "Can you explain a bit more what you mean when you say...?"
- "I'm not quite sure what you mean when you say (insert whatever they said), can you explain that some more?"