Communication is perhaps the most important ingredient in a successful relationship—whether it’s a romantic relationship, a friendship, or a colleague.
Because if you can’t communicate with each other effectively, then you’re not going to be able to understand how each other are feeling, what the both of you need and want, how to work through challenges together, or how to relate to each other.
But none of us are taught how to communicate effectively, are we? Which is why so many of us are terrible at it. (No, it’s not just you!).
If at least one person in the relationship is able to communicate well, it increases the chances of the couple having a successful relationship, and it’s likely the other person will learn to communicate better the more time they spend with their partner. However, if neither of you communicate well, then there’s a real risk you’ll both grow angry, frustrated, and resentful of each other, and your relationship will eventually break down.
Of course, it’s much better, and easier, to be in a relationship where both of you communicate well with each other. So I’ve put together a list of the most common communication problems in relationships, and how you can navigate them.
Not asking interesting questions.
It’s in our nature as people to crave attention from others, and have others be interested in us and our lives. When relationships have gone on for some time, questions can become very routine and boring such as, “How was your day?”
It’s important to re-ignite that excitement from when you were first getting to know each other, and still take a genuine interest in each other’s lives. You can do this by sitting down and pretending you’ve just met each other, or thinking of deeper questions to ask each other, so you can continue to learn new things.
Not communicating at all. (Or being passive aggressive.)
Some people have a tendency to withdraw when they’re hurt or angry with their partner, and cease to communicate at all. But when it’s not addressed, pain can fester, grow, and eventually hurt both people in the relationship. When it comes to communication, the worst thing you can do is not do it.
Not speaking to each other, or being defensive, puts barriers up, and doesn’t allow you to work through problems together. If your partner’s default is to shut down on you, be the one to encourage them to open up and spill what’s on their mind with you. And if you’re the one who tries to teach your partner a lesson through silence, you need to know that when the communication stops in a relationship, real problems can start.
It’s much better to argue with each other occasionally than to try to keep the peace by not communicating how you truly feel.
Not listening or empathizing.
The thing about communication is it’s not just about talking—it’s also about listening to your partner, and understanding how they’re feeling. When you’re both trying to understand each other, communication will flow much better, than if you’re both sharing a stream of your own thoughts and opinions.
Empathy is crucial in any successful relationship, and a key cog when it comes to communication. Your partner needs to feel like you care about how they’re feeling, and that they’re not alone. Next time your partner is struggling, don’t be so quick to offer them advice—offer them support instead.
Not controlling your emotions.
Some of us are quick to lose our temper and become aggressive with our partner, by raising our voice or using aggressive language or body language. The partner on the receiving end of this will quickly learn not to voice their true feelings, out of fear that there’ll be drama. And shouting and screaming isn’t going to help your partner understand you any better.
Next time you find yourself being triggered, make a conscious effort not to raise your voice, and pay attention to what you’re doing with your body. Speak at a normal level, remain calm, and talk things through like adults. Attacking each other is not the way to resolve conflict, and it’s a toxic way to communicate with someone who you supposedly love and respect.
Not addressing the root cause of how you’re feeling.
There are so many times when we’ll find ourselves flipping off the handle at our partner for something so small—like forgetting to pick up the milk from the shop like we asked, or switching the lights off when they leave the house. Usually, we’re not mad about that small thing, we’re really mad about something else—something that has been building up over time, or something that is nothing do with our partner—and we’re taking it out on them.
When you find yourself doing this, stop and ask yourself if this is really what’s causing you so much frustration, and if it’s not, think about what the root cause is and then share that with your partner.
Communication is vital for any relationship to survive and thrive. Take a look at how you’re showing up in your relationship, and how you can improve the way you communicate today.