4 Simple Steps to Improving Communication with Your Partner
BY ANITA MARTIN
Enriching relationships have many positive traits that contribute to their success, but which ones are most important? Depending on who you ask, the answers may range from mutual respect to shared interests. While every partnership is unique, effective communication is vital. The first step to improving communication is connection. How do you and your partner connect? The second step to improving communication is understanding. Beyond factual knowledge, what do you want your partner to understand about you, your needs, and concerns? The third step to improving communication is empathy and compassion. And, the final step to improving communication is trust. The development of trust is fundamental to rewarding relationships and is likely to deepen naturally as the first three steps are incorporated into your interactions.
True connection may be different for each individual in the relationship, so first developing self-awareness is key. How do you prefer to connect? Do you enjoy an evening walk, a coffee date, or perhaps a hike? Are you someone who enjoys conversation or do you express yourself best in writing? Knowing your personal connection style that accurately expresses your intentions is fundamental. Both you and your partner will need to discuss common interests to identify what you can do together to increase your emotional and physical bond.
Most of us believe we communicate well and are then surprised by how little our partner may actually understand about us. Knowledge of a person and the ability to understand him or her are two very different concepts. I like to think of knowledge this way: knowledge is information I have about my partner. Understanding my partner is deeper. To gain understanding about another person is to learn what motivates them, what causes them to withdraw, or what brings them deep joy. It’s easy to stop asking questions when we gain basic personal facts like favorite foods, colors, etc. Understanding emerges from knowing why certain things are important to your partner. How do they feel when they have a dining experience? When are they most confident and why? Do each of you spend the time to discover more about one another’s experience?
3. Empathy & Compassion
Empathy and compassion are really the second part of understanding, but their value is worth a separate discussion. When we extend compassion to our partner, we also extend a message of dignity, worth, and acceptance. Most of us seek a sense of belonging and value from our partnerships. When one partner, regardless of the reason, is unwilling or unable to offer compassion and empathy for their loved one’s experience, needs, or concerns it may feel like callous disregard. Disregard in a relationship sends a loud message: your experience, needs, and/or concerns are less important. Whether it is said or unsaid, the needs of one partner are usually elevated and this dynamic can undermine the partnership.
Trust is the beautiful result of cultivated connection, understanding, empathy, and compassion. Trust is one key ingredient that fosters intimacy and creates safety in relationship. But trust is earned and should not be offered freely. When a relationship ends, it’s often the cumulative impact of many broken agreements that have been most destructive. The repetitive messages of disregard and unimportance eventually become larger than the trust that once existed. And, mistrust tips the balance in the relationship. If your partner is emotionally or physically withdrawn, seek to understand and find help if needed.
Our relationships with one another increase overall life satisfaction. Take the time to develop connection, understanding, empathy, and trust in your partnerships and your relationships will reap the rewards.