If You Notice These 5 Habits In Your Relationship, Your Communication Skills Need Serious Work

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man and woman discussing things

Are you having issues with your partner not understanding you?  Maybe they don't understand what you're saying or they blatantly ignore you. 

If this is the case, and you and I had a conversation, there might be several ways in which you are unclear. You probably don't realize that you have poor communication skills. 

I've been you. I've been the one who wasn't clear in communicating what I wanted but I had no idea that was the case. All I saw was the outcome of our miscommunication: troubles in my relationship.

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There might be times when you feel like knocking your head against a brick wall and you are wondering what on earth is wrong with you. No matter what you do, you can't seem to get what you want or get your partner to understand you. 

Healthy relationships involve going through the journey of clear and open interpersonal communication, but you can't do this if you don't know how to communicate effectively. 

But, when you do start learning good communication skills, it's double the fun for you and your partner. Things will finally start working out between the two of you.

What is communication in the first place?

According to Merriam-Webster, the communication definition is: "A process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior."

The five relationships habits that mean your communication skills need work:

1. You assume your partner understands you or knows what you want

Assumptions are the killer of honest communication that lead to unhealthy relationships. Why? Because they are usually in your head and not spoken out loud.

How often do you assume your partner understands what you’re talking about? Probably a lot.

You don’t openly say or ask the question, "I’m assuming you understand what I’m talking about" and yet that’s what’s going on in your mind. Or perhaps you think they know what you’re going to say? That’s an even better one. How often do you do that?

And then there’s assuming they know what you want, without you openly expressing it. This is the perfect scenario for you to be the victimized one when they don’t deliver what you want.

Assumptions and not speaking them out aloud are some of the top barriers to communication, creating confusion in your relationship. You feel unloved and not understood. Your partner feels confused — they don't understand what it was they didn't do or say. 

Assuming your partner can read your mind and knows what you want without speaking it, causes feelings of rejection, or being unloved, and yet it’s you who are creating this, by not communicating what you want.

To change this, the first thing you need to do is to notice that you have an assumption. The second thing is to speak it out loud. It might sound crazy and if you put your assumption out there, your partner can deny or concur with you. 

If you have a want, be clear about it. For example, "I want you to buy me chocolate on your way home." Simple, clear, and no beating around the bush. It’s better than assuming he would.

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2. You have many unspoken expectations

The other big killer in the communication stakes is expectations. We all know what they are. 

We expect him to take out the garbage every Thursday night. We expect him to clean up after himself in the kitchen when he makes himself a drink. We expect her to take the laundry to the dry cleaners. And yet, how often are we clear and say that this is what we want? Not as often as we could.

Again, these conversations usually go on in our heads and not out loud to our partners. We also have more emotional expectations. We expect him to hug us when we’re down. We expect her to be understanding when we come home from work after a busy day.

Unspoken expectations leave us feeling unloved, uncared for, and, sometimes, very alone, which is why communication is relationships is vital. 

You may also find that when you have an expectation that isn’t met, you turn inward and are less communicative than usual. Normal behavior when you come up with a story about what the unmet expectation means.

To change this, try to learn how to communicate better and realize that you have an expectation that you aren’t speaking out loud. Then, speak it out loud. Be aware that your partner might tell you they aren’t able to meet your expectation and notice your reaction to that.

The best response is to be totally OK when they tell you they can’t meet your expectation. You might not be able to go there and that’s okay.

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3. You don't honestly speak what you want out loud

You probably don't — not always, anyway. So, what’s stopping you? Do you have some story running that you can’t have what you want? Or perhaps it comes down to the fact that you aren’t clear on what you want.

Believing you can’t have what you want is common among women and, possibly, men, too. It stems from your childhood where you didn’t get what you wanted so you then believed that you could never have what you wanted.

And if you believed this for long enough, that turns into you shutting down your wanting. If I ask you now what you want, you can’t tell me.

Not speaking what you want, out loud in an open and honest way, impacts your relationship by having you feel undeserving and that your partner gets and does more of what they want. You may be jealous of them because they are clear about their wants and go after them.

And maybe there are times when you do ask for what you want and your partner wants something different and you always lose out. Not speaking what you want out loud can cause a lot of tension and conflict within your relationship.

To change this, take the time to be clear about what you want. This may not be easy at first if you have the ingrained idea that you can’t have what you want. Say to yourself, "What if I could have what I want, what would that be?"

Be open to speaking what you want out loud. And then consider what it might mean for you and your partner to go your separate ways, so you do what you want and he does what he wants. That’s okay and healthy for your relationship.

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4. Not being able to say, "No, that doesn't work for me"

Saying "no" isn’t an easy thing for a few different reasons. You might think that if you say no, you are going to hurt your partner's feelings, so you say "yes" instead but then you regret it.

You may have been told that it's not okay to say "no" that stemmed from your childhood and upbringing. It's not a bad thing but it's something you need to notice.

Or, maybe you're needy, that's why you can't or won't say "no". You need to be with your partner. You need them to do what you want, so you do what they want, believing that if you reciprocate, it means they’ll do anything with you and for you.

And yet, deep down you might feel slighted, unhappy, walked over, and unable to have what you want. You might think that you never get what you want because you can’t say "no".

To change this, notice when you're saying "yes" when you actually want to say "no". Question yourself as to why you think you can’t say "no".

Then practice saying, "No, that doesn’t work for me" and see what happens. It’s not easy to use these words initially, because you most likely want to justify why it doesn’t work for you. And it’s a start.

This is about learning to be clearer in your communication in baby steps.

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5. You don't notice how unclear you are

Yes, this is an obvious sort of thing. Yet, it's not always easy to do. We are used to not listening to ourselves — we don't listen to what we say or what we don't say. 

If you communicate and don’t get the response you are expecting, this might be the perfect trigger to notice what you just said. Notice if you had an expectation that you didn’t voice or an assumption you’d made and didn’t put out there. Notice if you were saying "yes" when inside, you were screaming, "no!"

The clearer you are in your communication, the stronger your relationship. What you must do, though, is to undo patterned behavior that may be subconscious from your childhood.

So, why is communication important? Well, clear communicators lead to happier and healthier relationships.

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Karen Cherrett is a relationship coach who works with individuals to be clearer in their communication. 

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