Open and honest communication is the key to a successful relationship, not just for it to survive but for it to thrive. However, while it seems like a skill that everyone should know, sometimes we falter in transmitting our intention and purpose to the other person in the most effective way.
It’s also curious to observe that while it can be easy to talk about some things with some people, it’s much harder to open up to people we’ve known longer or share history with.
There are a number of reasons why this happens that emerge from our personal traumas, the kind of relationships we’ve observed growing up, and our family structure.
We may love someone deeply, but be unable to tell them so or have a different way of expressing it. For example, a non-communicative person might speak a different love language, and be better able to express it by giving gifts or delivering acts of service.
Some people also tend to have an avoidant personality, which means they need space and time away for themselves to recharge emotionally. On the other hand, those who have attachment personalities tend to value time spent together and would consider the behavior of a person with an avoidant personality as dismissive and even offensive.
This leads us to ask the question: should all communication be verbal? Does the language have to be the only medium through which we can express ourselves? Animals are known to use signs and symbols that transmit knowledge to other species by interacting with multiple sensory perception modes. Human beings also communicate non-verbally.
However, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, what we truly desire is to form meaningful and lasting connections with another individual. This makes us feel seen and heard and validates our existence while motivating us to live more fulfilling and purposeful lives. We build these connections when we call our grandparents after a long time just to tell them we miss them. Or when we speak to our partners after a busy day and let them know that it’s nice to hear their voice. These little understated acts can restore a sense of security in our relationships and let our loved ones know that we’re there for them.
We’re all learning constantly, and the more people we meet, the more we learn about ourselves and aspects of ourselves we can improve and work on. Maybe you find it hard to communicate openly in a relationship, which means you may lose out on building a relationship with someone you deeply care about.
Here are some ways you can work on yourself to be more communicative in a relationship.
Avoid making assumptions
Sometimes, we might trigger ourselves by thinking too much and too fast, and this almost always causes us to assume things. When you have a whole scenario made up in your head about a certain situation without talking to your partner first, you tend to reach conclusions that are not always true.
As difficult as it might be to bring up the topic with your significant other, first figure out what’s holding your back. Is it a fear of being judged or being too over-emotional?
Communicate your fears
This is a conversation you need to have with yourself first and foremost before you speak with your partner. Identify a safe space for yourself, and if you can’t, you can create one!
Find a place where you feel like you can relax. This can be either alone or in someone’s company. Verbalize what you feel and not what you think to get to the root of your fears. Read more here.
Feel things instead of intellectualizing them
Talking about your feelings by identifying and labeling them will help you to avoid rationalizing the situation. Don’t think about what your opinion on the situation is; rather, focus on how it makes you feel.
Fine and okay are not feelings. Expand your vocabulary to identify more complex emotions such as disappointed, resentful, hurt, upset, jealous, etc.
This is important because it shifts the focus to how you should feel instead of playing the blame game. Your first instinct shouldn’t be about wondering what’s wrong or with whom, but rather how the situation is impacting you.
Learn how to listen actively
Communication is an equal part of speaking and listening. While you have to work on phrasing the things you say in a more understandable manner, you also have to learn how to listen actively.
Active listening is the act of not just hearing the other person out but engaging with the conversation. In a relationship, sometimes you have to be a soundboard, whereas at other times, you have to help others navigate and understand themselves better.
At the same time, it’s your job to help your partner know what you’re expecting from them. If you want to rant to them, let them know that in your present frame of mind, you’re not looking for advice, just words of comfort. Remember that communication works both ways.
Wait it out
All good things come to those who wait.
Most often, in relationships, the most detrimental factor is timing. Sometimes it’s in your control, whereas at other times, it’s really not.
When you’re angry at a loved one or feel strongly about a situation, it’s always better to channel your anger in a healthy way first. Your partner is not your punching bag, and resorting to hurtful words to harm them verbally is toxic and emotionally abusive.
If you’re upset about something, wait it out for at least 36 hours. If you still feel the same way, bring the topic up by setting and respecting boundaries that you set together prior to the conversation.
Make time to be there.
Whether you’re in a long-distance relationship or not, it’s important to be there for your partner. You have to make time for them and be completely present when you’re talking about your relationship.
If you have limited time to talk to your partner because you’re both busy with your lives, work on strategies together to make sure you check in on one another regularly. You can set a fixed time to talk to each other once a day, and if one person is unavailable at that time, make sure you communicate that in advance if possible.
Also, make sure that when you do talk, you avoid using defensiveness as a coping mechanism and don’t attack your partner unnecessarily to make them feel bad.
We’re all creatures of habit, but breaking old ones to adapt and change is the key to experiencing unbridled personal growth.
For more information, explore the Tao Academy.