So you think you're a pretty good talker? You might be. When it comes to people, there are certainly better communicators than others out there — those are able to resolve conflict faster and be honest. Keeping the habits of couples with good communication skills can help you find greater happiness and trust in your own relationship, and it can raise your chances of sticking together, through both the good and bad. Also, it's worth noting that these lessons can be helpful in any sort of relationship, no matter intimacy level.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on their personal relationships, and that often includes one with a significant other. Being honest, it's likely that you and your partner get on each other's nerves sometimes, or you've had a fair share of arguments, where it seems like it takes hours or days to fully recover. What's more, stress could've maybe been avoided if you both had initially sat down, communicated rationally and expressed each other's needs, and figured out a solution, before all the yelling and door slamming that typically follows. Even if there's no noise, that lack of noise isn't much better, as feelings can get bottled up and come out again later (or just sit underneath the surface and make the relationship still feel sour). Either way, it's not a great outcome. Here are 9 little habits of couples who have excellent communication skills, and why you should model after them.
1. They Are Respectful In Their Language
Of course your relationship with a partner isn't the same as a boss, but consider this: Would you mouth off or act disrespectful to his or her? Probably not. According to Marcee Woodard, relationship counselor, over email with Bustle, this means no assumptions, nasty comments, or impatience when speaking to your partner. Be open to feedback and constructive criticism when needed and respond with defensiveness.
2. Sticking To The Issue At Hand
Woodard says that it's important to stay on track and make the conversation relevant, rather than one-upping your partner with sassy remarks or digging into the past. "Don't change the subject or go off on tangents that distract from the subject. This is a blame game tactic that is used to deflect and point fingers back in the other direction. i.e. 'I may be an over-spender, but you are impatient,'" Woodard uses as an example.
3. They Actively Listen
This means being fully present with your partner and listening to his or her emotions and thoughts. "The problem we see so often in interpersonal communication is people in our society don't really listen to listen, they listen to respond. When you hear a little bit and then start to think about how to respond, you miss hearing what the other person is really saying," Shirani M. Pathak, licensed psychotherapist and founder of the Relationship Center of Silicon Valley tells Bustle.
4. They Have Open, Positive Body Language
If your partner is sharing something personal, maybe holding his or her hand or offering an arm rub could be a nice gesture. It'll show you're compassionate and in tune with what he or she is saying. "The majority of communication is non-verbal. Your physical stance speaks volumes over your words," says Woodard.
5. They Give Eye Contact
"Eye-to-eye contact is essential for letting the other person know you are really listening. Eye contact helps us take in the other person’s words, emotions, and body language," says clinical psychologist, communications expert, and relationship therapist Carla Marie Manly, to Bustle over email. "It’s all too easy to multi-task as one talks, but this takes away from the deep listening that healthy couples foster," Manly adds.
6. They Mirror Each Other's Thoughts
"Mirroring, also known as reflective listening, is a skill that takes practice, but couples with excellent communication skills come to use this skill naturally. In essence, the speaker talks, and the listening partner then summarizes what he or she heard (mirroring what the speaker said)," says Manly. Here's why it's great: "The speaker then has the opportunity to rephrase, add, or adjust the communication. Then, the other partner has a turn to speak. This skill truly diminishes miscommunication and leaves both partners feeling heard, understood, and valued," says Manly.
7. They Don't Interrupt Each Other
"Good communicators rarely—if ever—interrupt the other person. Interrupting closes down communication and impedes proper listening (one can’t truly be listening while also formulating a retort or comment)," says Manly. And, when interruptions occur, the speaker is left feeling unheard and unvalued. When couples refrain from interrupting, this is a sign that that truly value and are actively listening to their partner, Manly explains.
8. They Hold Themselves Accountable
"If you or your partner say or do something wrong, apologize," says NYC based therapist, Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, to Bustle. It's better to own it and discuss ways to improve. And, if your you or your partner is upset, talk it out without getting defensive, Hershenson adds. "Acknowledge what your part was (even if it was simply upsetting them) and discuss what you could do differently in the future," Hershenson says.
9. They're Honest & Real
"One of the biggest challenges in most relationships is a lack of honesty out of fear, which then leads to saying or doing things you don't really mean, not out of malice, rather, usually out of a tendency to people-please," says Pathak. But, when people have healthy communication with one another, they communicate from a place of integrity: "They say that they mean, mean what they say, and don't say it mean," says Pathak.
These qualities make for some pretty satisfying relationships, as communicating is super important for building deep partnerships and maintaining them long-term. Take after these traits, and you might see your relationship improve with time.