Communication is one of the easiest paths to relationship bliss. It's also easy to get off track.
Welcome to 30 Days Of Love, our one-month initiative to bring you closer to the love you deserve just in time for Valentine's Day. Today, we're shining the spotlight on communication—and its role in a fulfilling relationship.
Below are 30 of the most crucial tips for healthy partner-to-partner communication. Read carefully; Your relationship might depend on it.
1. Listen well. The power of listening in any relationship can not be emphasized enough. It doesn't mean being silent until it's your turn to talk. It doesn't mean listening only to the things that help bolster your argument and ignoring rest. It means listening with an open mind and really hearing what your partner is saying. It means considering the possibility of being swayed by your partner's side of things.
2. Don't be confrontational. If you're angry, it's better to take some time apart to cool down before communicating than it is to take a confrontational approach to your partner, which puts him instantly on the defense—a terrible way to start a conversation.
3. Ask questions. It's the best way to clear up any confusion you might have about what your partner is really saying.
4. Validate your partner's feelings. One of the most frustrating dynamics you can have in a relationship is the sense that your partner isn't acknowledging your feelings or taking them seriously. You don't have to agree, but you should accept.
5. Don't take cheap shots. Resist the urge to be vindictive or push buttons. It's not just a completely ineffective communication strategy, but it can breed resentment over time. Some jabs are impossible to ever fully recover from.
6. Don't sugarcoat things. If something's bothering you, say so. If something isn't working, be frank about it. Things won't always be palatable. You may be trying to keep the peace, but by holding back, you're doing yourself, your partner and your relationship a disservice. Inauthentic communication breeds inauthentic results and chips away at trust.
7. Use engaged body language. When you check your phone or tidy up while your partner is talking, you're communicating that you're distracted or worse—that you don't think your partner is worth your undivided attention. Put away all diversions, sit still and focus on your partner.
8. Pay attention to your partner's body language. Recognizing nonverbal cues—like arms across the body that show your partner is closed off or a leaning in, which shows he's open and doesn't feel threatened—will help your rapport enormously.
9. Stay on topic. If you're discussing summer vacation plans, don't use this as an opportunity to discuss when you're going to get around to putting the air conditioners back in the windows this year. Stick with one plan at a time.
10. Don't reopen old wounds. "And another thing..." is one of the most dangerous phrases in the history of communication. Once decide you're going to put an issue to rest, move on and don't look back. Forgiveness heals.
11. Be transparent. Radical honesty—revealing everything you're feeling, thinking and doing at all times—may be a bit extreme for most people, but at its heart is an effective strategy: The more you share with your partner—even the day to day stuff like what time you'll be home and which train you're taking—the closer your partner feels to you and the more trust is built.
12. Consider your tone. Sometimes it actually has less to do with what you're sayng and more to do with how you say it. Even something your partner doesn't want to hear can be easier to take when said in an effective tone.
13. Choose your words with care. You can't un-say something; Once it's out it's out. So before you speak, think, "Am I really saying what I mean, and am I hurting anyone by saying it this way?".
14. Repeat back what you're hearing. Miscommunications happen when one person says something and the other person hears something totally different. Eradicate confusion by confirming what you thought you heard your partner saying. Use this strategy only when you need it, so as not to come off as condescending.
15. Make sure your actions match your words. "Don't tell me, show me."
16. Don't bottle anything up. Your feelings are like steam; If you let them all build up, they'll create enough pressure to make you blow your top. Instead, let the steam out little by little.
17. Don't be so quick to place blame. Finger-pointing sabotages the team dynamic that a successful relationship thrives on. Consider the roles that you, your partner and circumstances played; in any given situation, it's almost always a combination of the three.
18. Express appreciation. Don't get into the habit of communicating only when there are problems. Communicate positive things too, like appreciation for something your partner did.
19. Learn to compromise. If you're not willing to give and take, negotations will break down pretty swiftly. Swallow your pride once in a while.
20. Say what you mean. Try not to dance around the point. If you're worried about things escalating, find a graceful way to say exactly what you mean. Using "I feel..." sentences is a good place to start.
21. Let your partner finish. Don't interrupt—remember, you should be listening anyway!
22. Don't shut down. It isn't fair to your partner or yourself for you to throw in the towel on communication. If you need a few hours or a few days to clear your head before talking about something, express that directly.
23. Be vulnerable. Expose weaknesses and insecurities if you feel them. It can be hard, but ultimately it will always bring you closer than you were before.
24. Use more sentences that begin with "I" and less that begin with "you". As mentioned previously, the best way to avoid placing blame or letting communication spiral out is to stick with what you yourself are feeling or thinking; No one can (or should) argue with that.
25. Talk face to face. Text, email and instant message are ubiquitous these days, but one thing they're not is a suitable replacement for in-person communication. Not even a phone call or Skype can duplicate that dynamic.
26. Don't assume. There's a reason a dialogue requires two people; You can never know what your partner is truly feeling unless she tells you.
27. Don't bark orders. One-sided communication is a fallacy.
28. Don't manipulate emotions. It's fine to tell your partner he's making you feel upset, but it's another thing altogether to withhold your love during an argument or until you get your way.
29. Respect your partner's views. Like validating her feelings, respecting your partner's opinions or views—yes, even political ones—is paramount to healthy communication. Again, you don't have to agree; You just have to acknowledge and respect.
30 Say 'I love you'. These three words wield an enormous amount of power. Yes, there are ways to say it without saying it, but the hands-down most effective approach is to...say it. (And mean it!)