Improve your relationship communication for less conflict and deeper connection
Your relationships can be both a source of great joy and, from time to time, great challenges.
Whether you’re dealing with a conflict right now or you want to learn how to have more healthy relationships, I want to help. I know how important good relationships are to your quality of life.
In fact, good relationships are a basic human need. I want you to have the confidence and tools to thrive in your connections!
In this post, I’m going to teach you three effective communication skills that you can use to connect with the people in your life on a deeper level.
These important skills will help in any relationship. Use these tools in your intimate relationships, friendships, professional relationships, and family interactions.
Whether you’re having an important conversation with your best friend, staying connected in long-distance relationships, or having a disagreement in your romantic relationship, these skills will help you achieve better results.
Every relationship can benefit from good communication, after all!
Good and Bad Communication: How Do You Know the Difference?
If you’re still figuring out how to create healthy relationships with the different people in your life, you aren’t alone.
We aren’t born knowing how to be in relationship with others. We learn those skills as we grow and learn. We can learn from observation, experience, trial and error, or by making conscious effort to improve our relationships.
The road to healthy relationships requires more than connecting with other people. Building healthy relationships also means learning to deal with conflict, problem solving, individual differences, cultural differences, and nonverbal communication. Not to mention our own feelings and personal issues along the way.
This is the importance of good communication- it makes all of those things easier!
But how do you know what communication is good?
One of my favorite quotes about good communication comes from author, Marshall Thurber. He says, “The meaning of your communication is the response you get.”
Good communication is both received and understood by its intended recipient. More than making an effort to be clear when we communicate, good communication leaves no space for misunderstanding.
To learn how to be a more effective communicator, start asking yourself: Is there a way I can communicate right now that is impossible to misunderstand?
The difference between good communication and poor communication is how the person you’re talking to receives, understands, and responds to what you say.
The mistake most people make is thinking the content of our message is what’s most important. We spend a lot of time focused on our own thoughts and feelings.
Even when the other person is talking, we’re thinking about what we want to say.
Most of the time we have good intentions! But good intentions don’t always translate into good communication.
When we learn to measure good communication by a response that leads to a better connection instead of what we have to say, we communicate better.
And when we communicate better, our relationships can get better too.
Communication Skills for Emotionally Healthy Relationships
Effective Communication Skill #1: Learn to Listen
The first step to effective communication in emotionally healthy relationships has nothing to do with what you say or how you say it.
It has everything to do with how you listen.
Think of the communication in your relationships as a two-way street. You do have to communicate clearly by speaking, but learning effective listening might be even more important.
No matter what you want to say when you communicate, being an active listener comes first. It is the best way to establish common ground and show mutual respect for the person you are talking to.
Lowering defensiveness will help the other person understand and respond to your message in a favorable way
Communication is more effective when the other person feels seen, heard, and valued.
Active listening requires:
Undivided Attention: Being a good listener requires you to pay full attention to what the other person is communicating. Listen to what is being said with the intention of understanding the other person’s unique perspective and experience.
Show your interest in what they have to say with good eye contact. Resist focusing on distractions like your phone or things happening around you. Challenge yourself to hear them in a non-judgmental way and without focusing on your own internal dialogue. Listen to understand, not to respond.
Nonverbal Cues: Body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice can help you understand what another person is feeling. Pay attention to nonverbal cues both in the person you’re communicating with and in yourself. Be mindful that even while listening, your nonverbal message is also heard loud and clear!
Open-ended Questions: A great way to make sure you understand the other person and show you’re interested in their perspective is to ask open-ended questions. Ask questions that encourage expansive, thoughtful responses rather than relying on yes-no questions.
Empathy & Non-judgment: Active listening, creates an environment that encourages understanding and helpful responses. Empathy means avoiding judgmental language as you respond and ask questions. This helps good communication and emotionally healthy relationships flourish.
Communication feels easier when everyone is feeling positive feelings. But, difficult conversations and conflict are a natural part of any relationship.
Your emotions will vary in the different types of interactions you have on a daily basis. And that’s okay! Practicing active listening is how you learn a new skill to help you build emotionally healthy relationships.
Remember, emotions are valid, but usually temporary. But the good relationships you build with healthy, effective communication are lasting.
Effective Communication Skill #2: Reflect the Message
The easiest way to amplify your active listening skills is to reflect the message.
When a person comes to you in a state of anger or when someone is blaming you for something, your natural response will be to defend yourself.
One of the most difficult, but effective tools you can use in those situations is reflection.
Before you get defensive, before you rush to validate your own feelings and experience, and even before you offer solutions, I challenge you to pause, take a deep breath, and say, “What I hear you saying is…” and reflect what you hear back to them.
When you show that you understand, you create a space in which the other person can feel seen, heard, and valued. And even though the conflict may not be resolved yet, you set the stage for more healthy conflict resolution by turning what was a barrier into a bridge.
Reflection is a tool that helps you lead with validation instead of defensiveness. But that doesn’t mean you have to agree with the other person or their perspective.
Reflecting doesn’t remove the conflict, but it does help us create space for connection despite the disagreement. Using this tool gives us a choice in our conflict- we can reflect instead of escalating the conflict.
Reflecting the Message Example:
Let’s say your partner is angry with you. They’re frustrated that you hadn’t completed a task around the house that they believed was your responsibility.
You could immediately defend yourself, explain how busy you’ve been, or even point out all the things they hadn’t taken care of in recent memory, which would likely heighten emotions, defensiveness, and blame all around…
But, you have a choice. You could also pause, take a deep breath, and affirm their feelings and experience.
You could respond by saying, “What I hear you saying is that you expected me to take care of the dishes last night. When you woke up this morning and saw that the dishes were still dirty, it made you feel angry and frustrated. When you had to do them later to cook dinner later, it made you feel resentful.”
Reflecting the message is simple, but not always easy!
Challenge yourself to take this path of validation and understanding, especially in the face of conflict. It will make a great deal of difference in the outcome of your most important communication moments.
Effective Communication Skill #3: Jump in the Puddle
Jumping in the puddle takes your communication to a deeper level.
Using this tool shows that you’re invested in the outcome of the conversation. You can create connection by getting into the deeper, messier layers of what both you and the other person are feeling.
After you’ve reflected the other person’s message back to them, take it a step further and:
- Clarify that your reflection was accurate: Different people communicate in different ways. It isn’t uncommon for people to interpret completely different meanings from the same interaction. Show interest in the best outcome possible and take a moment to ask the other person if you understood.
- Jump into the puddle: Use these three, simple words to demonstrate your interest in the other person’s feelings and experiences and to invite them to go deeper with you: “Tell me more…”
When you ask the other person to tell you more about their feelings, experiences, thoughts, and desires, you invite them to expand from conflict to connection.
Conflict is resolved in connection.
As the other person tells you more about what’s important to them, continue to engage in active listening. Keep looking for opportunities to reflect the message back to them.
As you do, they are then more likely to hear and understand your message. They may seem like little things, but these strategies will have a significant impact on your relationships.
Not only will you create positive, growth-oriented outcomes for your relationship, but you’ll also be building the foundations for better communication in the future!
The Impact of Healthy Communication
As you use these three, powerful communication skills, you are investing in the future.
Much like exercising a muscle, we build emotionally healthy relationships over time.
Practicing these skills will help you navigate a variety of situations with a variety of people with greater ease and confidence. And the people in your life will begin to trust that even the most difficult conversations with you can go well.
That trust will change how other people show up and engage with you in the future. They’ll be less likely to be defensive, assign blame, or shut down. Each time you practice effective communication, you will make the next time– the next conversation, the next conflict, or the next misunderstanding– easier.
I have seen, time and time again, that the people who are able to genuinely listen, reflect the message, and jump in the puddle are those who have the most fulfilling, long-lasting relationships.
Those people are not shaken by conflict.
They are not afraid to engage with others even in the most difficult moments.
And they build relationships where they feel seen, heard, and valued because they help others feel the same way.
Start Here to Build Healthy Relationships That Help You Thrive
Your relationships are a significant part of creating a life that you love.
But I know that not all relationships are easy. Some may even feel downright impossible!
I want you to feel empowered as you navigate the relationships in your life, both new and old, easy and challenging.
And more so, I want you to have the tools to thrive in your relationship with yourself.
Download the Beginner’s Guide to Setting Boundaries. You’ll learn 3 simple steps to get your needs met, nurture yourself, and start creating healthier relationships.
This free gift is for you if you long for healthier relationships with your friends, family, partners… and yourself!
You won’t believe the positive ripple effect you’ll experience in the rest of your life as a result!