Communication for Improved Relationships

The communication struggles in some relationships can be difficult and can feel insurmountable,
especially if you and your partner have very different personalities and communication styles. By being aware of your own personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your partner, you can learn respectfully communicate with each other.

Having a reference for personality differences and therefore, how to respect and improve communication, will teach you how to communicate across boundaries by understanding the different personality strengths.

Communication is vital in creating and maintaining any relationship, whether it be a close, intimate

relationship, such as with a partner, child, or friend or a professional relationship, such as a co-worker, or client.

Your communication skills affect how you resolve problems, conflict, and the level of trust you create in your relationships. A lack of communication may result in confusion, misunderstandings,
assumptions hurt feelings and perceptions of lack of support.

The Importance of Self Awareness

Self-awareness is at once one of the most important factors in a successful relationship and also one of the hardest for many people to achieve. When we ask ourselves how we might improve our relationships, it’s best not to focus on others, but rather on self-awareness, on yourself.

Be Aware of and Respect Your Personality Weaknesses

The best way to overcome a problem is to recognize it quickly. If you’re having trouble communicating
with your significant other, analyzing where those difficulties lie, one reason can be, that maybe you’re
worried about hurting their feelings or not being assertive or direct enough. Access the personality link
below for help in understanding the inherent weaknesses in your personality type. If that doesn’t
address the problem, trying professional couples or individual counseling may be an option.

Understanding Personality

Many people find themselves in unhappy relationships because they fail to recognize how they and their significant other have a different way of processing the world, depending on their personality.
Understanding your partner’s personality—and how it differs from yours, is an important step toward
improving your relationship.

For example, if you’re an introvert and your partner is an extrovert, you may tend to be more comfortable with one-on-one time and they may be drawn to meeting with groups of people, more often than you.

This can leave you feeling lonely, angry or depressed as a result of unmet expectations. To learn more about various aspects of personality’s access: the Myers-Briggs personality assessment: www.humanmetrics.com/personality. Make note of the letter associated with each of the four categories as well as the percentage of each for the most accurate assessment of each person.

Use ‘I statements’ to take responsibility for your feelings

I’m angry because you left your dirty dishes in the sink vs When you leave your dirty dishes in the sink,
it makes me so angry.

When you frame a statement as an ‘I statement’, it’s obvious that only one person is responsible for how they felt, instead of blaming another person for making them feel a certain way. We are all responsible for how we feel.

Effective Communication

If your relationship is struggling, chances are good that it’s because of communication issues. Regardless of whether you’re communicating through email, text messages or even in person, misunderstandings will occur. The best way to combat these problems: be more aware of how you communicate with others (a clue is how others respond to you). Communication barriers prevent people from understanding a message or understanding it the same way. Some common communication barriers include:

• Poor Listening Skills.

Many people consider speaking the most important element of communication, this belief is
questioned by many. Poor listening skills often stem from a lack of patience or assumptions with the listener, so improving your ability to listen (including “active listening”) may require some reflection on your communication style.

Good listening skills are critical to effective communication and help you better understand the information other people want to convey, improve your rapport with others, and improve your problem-solving skills.

• Language Barriers.

The words you use to communicate may enhance open communication or be a barrier to
communication. It can include poor use of language by the communicator (e.g., using words incorrectly, poor grammar), generalizing rather than being specific, a lack of understanding of the language or context (e.g., a non-technical person trying to communicate about a technical issue), using
colloquialisms or jargon, using ambiguous word choices, etc.

Emotional Barriers.

Often, people cite emotional barriers as a cause of communication struggles. There is a greater potential for misunderstanding when emotions are heightened. For example, a sender who is angry may not be able to effectively communicate his or her feelings and ideas. A receiver in a similar state may ignore or distort what the other person is saying.

Sometimes people say they can talk about feelings, but their partner is not. This is a common
concern. The issue can be how emotions are expressed. When trying to improve relationships with your partner, it’s important to learn how you can speak about your emotions in a way that does not trigger an adverse reaction in yourself or your partner, as well as give each other time to think about how they are feeling.

Practical Barriers.
This can include several factors including, interruptions, distractions, physical environment issues
(lighting, noise, and comfort), talking too softly, physical distance, a physical barrier between sender and recipient, etc.

Timing Barriers.

The timing of communication can affect one’s ability to be understood. For example, plenty of time
needs to be allotted to communicate the message fully, or it may be too early or too late in the day for
someone to give the communication his or her full attention. Being sensitive to others and their needs
regarding timing can have a positive effect on constructive communication.

• Perceptual barriers.

Each person experiences events—including communication—in a way that is unique to him or her. A
sender will communicate in a way that makes sense in his or her reality. A receiver understands 
communication in a similar manner. However, these two realities may not be the same, so the message may be perceived differently, hindering communication.

Variables include age, education, gender, social and economic status, cultural background, personality temperament (see MBTI for greater understanding http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp), health, religion, political beliefs, etc. can alter perceptions and create barriers to communication.

Effective Listening

Listen first and foremost. Be willing to hear and be curious about where your partner is coming from,
even if you can’t immediately relate or agree. Listening starts a conversation; speaking begins an
argument, potentially.

Listening involves hearing and paying attention to the speaker. However, hearing and effective listening are different processes. Consider the following tips to help you become a more effective listener:

• Clear your mind to avoid wandering mentally. Be careful about assuming you know what the person is saying or about to say.

• Focus on what the other person is saying. Give the other person your full attention and listen carefully to what he or she is saying. Think of this as an opportunity to learn something about the other person.

• Don’t interrupt. Allow the other person to talk without interruption until he or she gets to the point.
Ask questions to make sure you understand what they are saying, allowing them to clarify.

• Use body language to indicate your interest in encouraging the other person to speak:

Keep up good eye contact.

– Lean forward, nod your head, and make encouraging gestures.

– Keep your body relaxed, open and focused on the speaker. If your arms or legs are crossed or
clenched fists, open them. Notice if you turn the eyes/head/body away, as this indicates
disinterest or opposition.

– Notice distracting behaviours, such as playing with a pencil, drumming your fingers, jingling
change in your pocket, etc. This is distracting for both you and the other person.

All the above make it difficult for you to listen as well and can distract the speaker and create barriers to
communication.

• Use acknowledging responses such as “uh-huh,” “I see,” “you don’t say,” “okay,” etc. These encourage
the other person to speak and show that you are interested in what he or she is saying.

• Active listening or paraphrase what you believe the other person has said. This will indicate that you have
been listening, and ensure that your understanding is accurate. Active listening also encourages the
other person to clarify where they need to. At the end of the conversation, you may wish to summarize
the discussion, as well.

• Ask questions without interrupting, but at an opportune time clarify anything that seems unclear to
you.

• Pay attention to the speaker’s nonverbal messages, by observing the tone of voice and body language.
This can give clues as to what the other person is thinking and feeling and how he or she is responding
to what you say.

Give a Valid Thoughtful Response

• Respond constructively. Let the other person know you value what he or she is saying, even if you
don’t agree. Try to avoid responding negatively or with judgment, for example criticizing, ridiculing,
dismissing, diverting (talking about yourself rather than about what the other person has said) or
rejecting the other person or what they are saying.

• Respond appropriately. Make sure you clearly understand what the other person wants from you and respond appropriately. If you aren’t certain what the other person wants, ask for clarification. Try to avoid giving unwanted advice or direction unless the person specifically requests it from you. For
For example, if a partner, friend or co-worker simply wants to vent about an incident that frustrated him, he may not appreciate you giving unwanted advice about how you feel he or she should have handled the situation.

Effective Speaking

The goal in speaking is to convey a message to another person in a manner that helps them understand exactly as you intended it. The following strategies can help you improve your verbal communication skills.

• Make certain you have the other person’s attention. When you have something important to say to
somebody, make sure you have his or her attention (start by saying their name, make eye contact)
before you begin talking.

• Be organized. Have an objective and be clear that you are speaking towards that goal. Especially for
extroverts, who tend to think before they speak; think first and present your thoughts.

• Speak so the listener will understand. Avoid jargon, colloquialism, overcomplicated terminology, etc.
Speak in a way that is appropriate for the age, sex and emotional state of the other person.

• Encourage open-ended conversation. Use open-ended questions that promote a response, such as
“tell me about …” “how do you feel about….” Avoid questions that encourage a one-word answer (such
as “yes” and “no”).

• Be open. Share your feelings truthfully … but respectfully. Approach the discussion as an opportunity
for the other person to learn something about you.

• Be specific and objective. Identify the specific issue at hand and how it makes you feel. Avoid
generalizing statements such as “always,” or “never.” Stick to the subject; try not to digress into broad
issues or revive past issues.

• Be positive. Focus on the other person’s positive points without giving advice (unless asked). Be
specific, generous and public with your praise. Make sure that positive feedback outweighs criticism.

• Respond, but don’t react. Be respectful, calm and positive. If the discussion is escalating into anger,
take a short break from it. Agree on a set time to resume the discussion and be sure that you do.

• Ask for a summary. Find a polite way of ensuring that people have understood you. “Could you
summarize what we’ve discussed to make sure we are on the same page?”

• Try to resolve conflicts, not to win them. This can mean taking a break and setting a time to revisit the
conversation. Try to develop a solution to the problem but remember, occasionally you may have to
agree to disagree.

https://positivepsychology.com/communication-in-relationships/