Although it may sound like a tired cliche, make no mistake – communication truly is the key to a successful relationship. When it’s going smoothly, both you and your partner feel like you’re being heard and acknowledged. This enables you to freely share experiences, thoughts, and feelings with one another, strengthens your bond, and builds trust.
On the other hand, clashing communication strategies can lead to the withdrawal from the other person. This can seriously undermine the relationship and ultimately end in breakup or divorce. This is why it’s important to spot communication breakdowns and work on resolving them.
Start by learning more about healthy communication, ways to identify potential problems between you and your partner, and how to adopt a more effective strategy to connect with them.
What Are The Four Communication Styles?
Some partners communicate effortlessly while others seem to be speaking different languages. The reason behind this could be different communication styles. While every individual may use all four styles at different times and with different people, each person typically tends to favor one of them. You can often notice this from the moment you meet them. Each style also comes with its set of non-verbal cues that help get the message across. By learning to recognize which one you and your partner use most often, you may realize how to communicate more effectively.
These are the four commonly known styles of communication:
- Passive: Passive communicators usually lack initiative and go along with what others say. They shy away from conflict by handing over their autonomy. In a relationship, they feel more comfortable when the partner makes decisions and takes charge. They tend to avoid arguments, keeping their dissatisfaction to themselves. The characteristics of passive body language are breaking eye contact and acting nervously.
- Aggressive: These people typically communicate in a domineering way. They assert their needs, make demands, and take the lead. They usually dominate the conversation, paying little attention to what the other person has to say. They’re openly confrontational and even combative. Their body language is often intimidating and their tone of voice can be harsh.
- Passive-aggressive: This is a person that sends mixed messages. Instead of being direct, they use sarcastic remarks and indirect criticism to convey their resentment. For example, they may be punishing their partner with the silent treatment while insisting that everything is okay. They can act like they’re fine, but throw in veiled remarks when the other person least expects it.
- Assertive: This is the healthiest communication style that most people aspire to achieve. Assertive communicators are able to express themselves calmly, directly, and openly while also respecting the other person’s points of view. They come off as self-assured but non-threatening.
What Are Some Bad Communication Patterns?
Everyone is likely to use some negative communication strategies from time to time. These methods are largely ineffective because they antagonize, disrespect, or hurt the other person. Instead of bringing you closer together, they drive a wedge between you and your partner.
So, knowing how to identify them and what tactics to apply istead can help you strengthen rather than weaken your relationship. These are some examples of unproductive techniques:
- Not listening: Thinking only about what you have to say without paying attention to the other person’s point of view is a recipe for disaster. In successful conversations, the people are on equal footing, both sharing and receiving information. The person who isn’t heard feels underappreciated while the other partner misses out on understanding their loved one better.
- Being disrespectful: Insults are hurtful and detrimental to self-esteem. Calling your partner names and “hitting below the belt” never leads to a satisfactory resolution of conflict. Instead, it drives you farther apart and seriously jeopardizes your relationship.
- Criticizing on a personal level: Personal criticism feels like an outright attack. It’s embarrassing, belittling, and painful. As an alternative, address the problem calmly and directly while focusing on the behavior that bothers you, not the person. Saying you’d like your partner to help with chores is much more effective than calling them good-for-nothing.
- Acting defensively: When facing criticism, many people resort to defensiveness. You or your partner may make excuses for your behavior or flat out deny it. However, this is unproductive because you don’t give yourself the opportunity to hear your partner out and identify an area where you could improve. And vice versa.
- Shutting down: Some individuals tend to get back at their partners by giving them the silent treatment, also known as stonewalling. This is very frustrating for the other person who’s trying to reach them and iron out the problems.
How Do I Improve Communication In My Relationship?
Communication skills can be greatly improved, especially with the help of relationship coaching. Here are a few things to try that can help you convey your message more successfully and be happier in your relationship:
- Don’t assume they’ll read your mind and don’t attempt to read theirs. Openness and direct communication with a focus on care for the other person is the goal. If you believe there’s something they’re not disclosing, ask them about it.
- Think everything through before you start a difficult conversation. Let your feelings subside before you do anything rash and hurt your partner with insults. It’s much better than apologizing and saying you didn’t really mean it after damage is done.
- Consider consulting with a relationship coach. If you and your partner keep failing to communicate, maybe you need a neutral third party to assist you. With professional help, you can uncover negative communication patterns, as well as other potential problems that may be holding you and your partner back.
What Relationship Coaching Program Can Help Me Spot Love Avoidance Characteristics?
Learn how to become an assertive communicator at PIVOT. Our eye-opening process of pivoting gives participants a better understanding of themselves and their attachment styles, helping them build close, lasting bonds.
If you join our rewarding individual workshop sessions, our caring relationship advocates will be there to offer you expert guidance. Couples can also find healthy techniques to cope with outside pressures and take their relationship to the next level by taking part in our helpful couples workshop.