9 communication techniques for couples

Trouble communicating with your better half? Here are nine techniques to help you understand each other better... even when you don’t agree.

1. Listen, really listen

Right off the bat, listening to what your partner has to say goes a long way in helping solve problems. Try to get your spouse’s take on the issue and why they're not happy.

It can be tempting to interrupt to counter their point, but don’t. Wait until your partner has finished talking before explaining why you see the situation differently.

2. Express your needs

Don’t wait a month to talk about something that’s bothering you. There’s no better time than the present. Keeping your frustrations to yourself only complicates things and builds resentment.

If your emotions are getting the best of you, take a step back. When you feel calmer, describe how you feel using specific situations or examples.

Don't suppress something important for fear of stirring up trouble. A discussion can take place in a healthy atmosphere, without tears or raised voices.

3. Choose the right moment

Timing is important to ensure a couple is open to dialogue. For instance, if your spouse has a big meeting in the morning, wait until the next day to break the ice about what's bothering you.

4. Use assertive statements

Accusations aren’t the way to go. Try assertive statements to avoid hurting or angering one another so you both stay open to discussion. For example, say “I feel angry and exhausted when the kitchen is messy. I would like us to take a few minutes to clean up a bit before dinner.”

5. Tackle one issue at a time

Don't lump all your problems together. That’s just putting oil on fire and you’ll end up turning in circles. It’s simply counterproductive.

Also avoid bringing up previous conflicts. If you’ve got several pet peeves bothering you (not having enough activities together or the car keys always getting lost), deal with one issue at a time.

6. Agree to disagree

Being convinced you’re not at fault is often a recipe for conflict.

Make sure you really take the time to understand your partner’s point of view. Show empathy and be open to a different point-of-view. Being stubborn won’t help anyone. Don’t assume you’re always right, and admit you’re wrong when you know you are.

Regardless of the shared or different views you have as a couple, respect is paramount in a relationship. Your partner has the right to see things differently.

7. Steer clear of criticism

Express yourself without systematically criticizing everything the other person says or does without any solutions. You might find your partner quickly becomes less receptive to conversation. For instance, instead of saying, "You're lazy," explain why you feel that way and what concrete change you want to see, such as, "I'd like help making dinner.”

8. Pick up on body language

Nonverbal communication and body language can send strong messages about how open you or your partner is to conversation. According to research, 55% of communication is nonverbal.

Here are examples of body language that are conducive to healthy dialogue :

  • Make eye contact (don't look away when you disagree)
  • Avoid crossing your arms
  • Maintain a relaxed facial expression (no strained smiles or lip-biting)
  • Express yourself in a calm, steady tone

9. Find common ground

How to solve a disagreement with concrete solutions? Each person in a couple will have to make compromises. Negotiate to ensure that behaviour that caused the conflict doesn’t happen again.

If the situation doesn’t improve despite this advice, consider contacting a psychologist who specializes in couples’ therapy. This person may be able to help you find other solutions.

Healthy communication in a relationship defuses many conflicts. It helps overcome misunderstandings and maintain a positive relationship with the person you share your life with. There’s nothing like talking to each other to really understand one another.