5 Small (But Significant) Ways To Change How You Speak To Your Partner

Photo: getty
Tiny (But Significant) Ways To Change How You Speak To Your Partner
Expert
Love

Relationships are where you will feel the most pain and the most pleasure. It's through relationships where your partner and/or other people in your life mirror back to you who you really are.

Sometimes it's not so easy or fun to see. This mirroring is exactly what causes issues in relationships. It is really that simple.

Becoming more self-aware and giving that newfound awareness a clear, loving, authentic voice will enhance your relationships.

What will happen when you learn how to communicate better in a relationship? As a matter of fact, all of your relationships will get better.

RELATED: How To Communicate Your Needs In A Relationship & Get What You Want

What are your communication challenges? Do you let your emotions get in the way, or does your mind get in the way? Do you make up stories in your head only to find out what you were thinking wasn’t quite true or not true at all?

Are you a yeller? Possibly even raging at times to those you dearly love, then suffer from a shame hangover? Or, do you shut down and wall off, giving the silent treatment?

If you're the one giving the "silent treatment," how many days does it last in your household? Think of how damaging that is! Maybe you're afraid to speak your truth for fear you might cause waves.

Are you more of a people pleaser, going along to get along? Avoiding conflict at all costs?

If you're keeping your truth from others, you will not feel connected to them. Ultimately, you will feel more resentment than connection, and that is not what you want.

Not having proper communication skills in a relationship is hurting you. But it isn't your fault.

All of these relationship tactics, and ways of communicating — or really, not communicating — were handed down to you. They are a gift from your parents, grandparents, and ancestors. These patterns of communication and ways of dealing with conflict are deeply ingrained in your psyche.

You need support and guidance to practice new ways of communicating to shift this pattern. It's doable and eternally rewarding.

Here's how to communicate better in a relationship.

When you learn these skills, you will positively affect all of those closest to you. You can’t make anyone change, but you can change the interaction between you and another. Because when you change, they have no other choice but to change.

It's a powerful thing to witness. And it's really that simple.

RELATED: 6 Ineffective Ways Of Fighting In A Relationship — And How To Fight Fair With Your Partner

1. Don't use the words "always" and "never."

When you're upset with your partner or someone close, don't use the words "always" and "never." This includes statements such as:

  • "He never appreciates me."
  • "I am always the one who looks after everything."

"Everything" could be another dangerous word if you use it to generalize. For example, when your partner complains you respond with, "Everything you say is negative."

Phrases such as "he always" or "she never" are statements that box the other person in. Though you may think that person may always or never do something, it isn’t reality.

Reality is changing from moment to moment. Higher thought says that you create your own reality. "Always" and "never" statements are a way of avoiding being present with those you love.

It's also a way of avoiding taking responsibility for your part in the situation by putting blame on the other person. Listen to the stories you tell yourself when you are upset. These stories aren't who you are. They don’t come from your heart, and they will not enhance your relationships.

Start noticing when you use this very destructive way of communicating. Stop putting the one you love into a very limited box and way of being.

RELATED: If You Are Tired Of Being Called Defensive, Work On These 5 Strategies To Save Your Relationship

2. Avoid using "you" statements when talking with your partner.

"I feel hurt" is quite different than "You hurt me." So, use "I" statements when communicating.

Using "I" statements instead of "you" statements is a way to communicate clearly and without blame. Authentic communication uses "I" statements. It’s not selfish and doesn’t mean you care only about yourself.

"I" statements are direct and honest. "I" statements are a way to take responsibility for how you feel and actually take back your power. You aren't blaming your partner for your feelings. "I" statements are what is happening with you, not judgments of what they are doing wrong.

For example, "I need gentleness" is an "I" statement, as opposed to saying, "You always yell at me," which is a "you" statement, creating defensiveness. "You" inherently is not a negative word; however, when used to victimize, judge and control — as in the statement, "You are mean" (instead of saying "I feel hurt") — your words become an attack that doesn’t nurture connection.

You place the blame on the other person for causing your feelings. In that phrase, you aren't taking responsibility for your feelings. From this perspective, "you" statements are more self-centered than "I" statements.

Heart-centered communication shows vulnerability. "I feel hurt" is vulnerable. "You are mean" or You hurt me" are attacking.

3. Slow down and don't immediately react.

Good communication requires space and slowing down.

Most of us communicate in reactive mode. We are reacting to something. Speaking before we have time to digest what we have just heard or seen. Develop the skill of waiting to respond.

Maybe you have to wait a minute. Other times, you may need to wait a couple of days. It depends on the situation. Most of us are over-reacting and not giving ourselves enough time to process things that are upsetting to us.

Take time and slow down. Feel the impact of an upsetting situation. Learn to process your uncomfortable feelings and give them a voice.

RELATED: 7 Things That Happen When You Really Listen To What Your Partner Is Saying

4. Actively listen when your partner is upset.

Waiting to respond is powerful, especially when upset. When you're upset and triggered, your logical brain literally isn't functioning properly. You go into fight or flight mode, and your ability to actively listen goes out the window.

Take time to listen. Actively listen. You need to give what you want to get.

The most valuable gift you can give someone you love is your presence and really be there for them. Listen to them. Make sure you understand what they are trying to say. Stop being so fixed on your point of view, and clarify and verify with the other person exactly what they are wanting to tell you.

The way to do this is to repeat back to them what you just heard them say. Use these words, "What I am hearing you say is..." Then, tell them what you understood them to say. You will be amazed at how often you're misunderstanding what they are saying.

Make them feel heard and understood, and you will open the door to having you experience the same.

5. Tell the truth.

You may consider yourself a very honest person, but really, telling your truth is easier said than done.

What is your truth? Your truth is shrouded in other people’s agenda, wanting to keep the peace, wanting to be accepted.

What would it be like if you had better communication skills? If you could speak your truth without causing major problems? What difference would that make in your life?

The truth is you can’t avoid conflict. It's part of relating. However, you can gain the skills to make them fewer and further apart, and decrease the length of time they last. Like a wave instead of a tornado. 

RELATED: 3 'Love Language' Communication Skills That Will Make Your Relationship Last

Before you go,
subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

Anna Thea is an intimacy coach, author, and teacher. She has an online educational program teaching women communication skills and more.

This article was originally published at AnnaThea.org. Reprinted with permission from the author.