4 Small (But Powerful) Changes You Can Make To Have A Relationship That's Stronger Than Ever

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How To Have A Healthy Relationship By Practicing Effective Communication Skills
Love

Effective communication skills are an important part of how to have a healthy relationship.

And yet, despite all the relationship advice on how to communicate, open up, and work through negative emotions, do you find yourself struggling to put these communication skills into practice?

RELATED: What A Healthy Relationship Needs If You Want It To Last

It's not a matter of just being in love with someone — after all, how many of your relationships would you define as “thriving?" How many would you define as soul-sucking?

The relationships in your life affect every aspect: Your health, wealth, confidence, body image, success at work ... even things like your view of humanity and the ability to reach your highest potential!

Humans are social beings. We are wired to connect. This means that, at a cellular level, you need relationships to survive. You're not meant to do this thing called life alone.

However, when your relationships aren't vibrant and healthy, they suck the life energy out of you.

When contemplating and evaluating the health of your relationships, it’s helpful to think of two broad factors: The who and the how.

Who are you in a relationship with, and how do you interact and relate with this person?

This post is all about looking at the role you play in relationships, how you show up, what you do that’s helpful, and what you do that’s not helping you.

My intent is to point out to you how much control you have in having healthy relationships.

Here are 4 simple ways you can develop your communication skills for the best relationships of your life:

1. Don't try to read people's minds

First of all, did you know you can’t actually can’t read people’s minds? Yet, you might try every day.

So many people say things like, “If I told him that, he’d be mad,” or “He seemed angry so I…”

Trust me, I've been there. In my first marriage, I thought I was a master mind-reader. I told myself I knew exactly what he was thinking and feeling.

Why does this matter? Because I then would act in a certain way based on my mind reading. Not helpful.

First off, humans don’t have the ability to read minds. Second, we waste a bunch of time and energy trying.

Solution? Ask. Communicate. Be in a relationship with the other person. Shockingly simple, but often not easy.

Instead of attempting to read someone's mind, here are some shifts you can make in how you approach situations to get out of mind-reader mode and into a deeper connection:

  • I feel like something is going on for you. Do you want to talk about it?
  • When you came home today and did that, I made up this story in my head. What was going on?
  • When you said that, I thought…

Other people don’t think like you. Stop. Breathe. Ask.

2. Don’t make assumptions

This is closely related to the first tip of not reading people’s minds. It goes a step further in encouraging you to not add drama to the facts of your life.

Think of the thought model, the framework for emotional adulthood. There are things that happen in your life and then there’s what you make those things mean. The healthiest and most thriving relationships stick to the facts and question the assumptions your brain wants to make.

Here are some examples of assumptions:

  • He’s late to pick me up, so he must be…
  • She didn’t call me back; that means…
  • He never returned my email. He must think…
  • He didn’t offer me dessert because he thinks…
  • She canceled our coffee because…

In all of the above situations, the first part of the sentence is fact. The second part is the drama you add to your life.

In actuality, there are multiple reasons why things happen, but your brain tends to choose the most negative.

Be aware of the assumptions you make. Be aware that it’s in your best interest to not finish the sentence in your head, and instead communicate openly with the other person.

The only way you know what someone else is thinking or feeling is if you open your mouth and ask. Find the courage to ask questions in your relationships, and you will avoid drama. Communicate as truthfully as you can.

RELATED: 6 Things You Need To Do To Have A Stronger Relationship

3. Don’t take things personally

Nothing others do or say is because of you. If someone is critical of you (or judging you), it’s not about you, it’s about them.

Think about it by reversing the roles and considering where you are judgmental in your life. If I’m in a restaurant, I could care less if someone doesn’t put their napkin on their lap before eating.

Yet, sit me next to a family who spends the whole meal on their phones and boy do I become critical. Why? I don’t care about the napkin because I’m comfortable with my own table manners. However, the family’s phone behavior triggers me because I am sensitive about the amount I use my phone.

When you can see what you’re judging and how you're judging it, you can see how others’ judgment is a projection of their own feelings, their own experiences, and has little to do with us.

How can this bring you freedom in your relationships? In all ways.

When someone doesn’t return your call, instead of making it about you, you can ask yourself: “What are other reasons why they may not have returned my call?”

If your spouse snaps at you, be aware that s/he is having an emotional experience — but you don’t have to take it on as your problem.

If someone cuts you off in traffic, you can ask yourself: What are some reasons this person might have cut me off?

Ask yourself today: "How could I take this less personally?" Or “What are some other explanations for what happened?”

4. Tell the truth

You don’t walk around thinking you’re dishonest, however, you may tell little white lies all day long.

For example, you might tell your friend you like her skirt even though you think it’s hideous. Or when you're too exhausted to go to the book club, do you say so, or make up another excuse instead?

Sure, your intentions are good — you're usually telling people what you think they want to hear.

Why? Because you’re afraid of what others would think or are afraid of how they would react. Or maybe you think telling someone the truth would be hurtful.

All of these reasons are made from a good place but are flawed. Can you control how someone else feels? No! Never. They control their thoughts and feelings and you control yours.

When you say things that aren’t your truth, you end up hurting others. You don’t have deep relationships because you’re being a fake version of yourself, which can hurt you.

By not being your true, authentic self and telling your truth in a kind and gracious way, you send a message that there’s something you need to hide. Not quite a confidence builder, eh?

Where do you tell white lies? When your spouse asks if you’re OK and you’re not, what do you say? Where do you not speak up for yourself?

Where do you tell half-truths? Practice shifting that today. Start small. Speak up when someone asks where you want to go to dinner. Speak up when you’ve had a cruddy day. Speak up, dear warrior.

You are here because of your uniqueness. The universe doesn’t make duplicates. Share your self, not some mixed-up version you think other people want to see. I want to see you!

The more you use these four rules in your relationships, the more deep contentment and connection you will feel.

Connection is one of the pillars of wellness. Without it, you will feel a level of discontent that builds over time and dulls your energy and your light. You matter. Live a life you love!

RELATED: 4 Facts We Need To Understand About Love, Because It Does Not Conquer All

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Susie Pettit is a mindfulness-based cognitive coach and podcast host of the weekly Love Your Life Show. Sign up for her weekly newsletter to help you live a life you love!

This article was originally published at SMB Well. Reprinted with permission from the author.