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How To Develop Good Communication In A Relationship

Cain Parish

In This Article:

Effective communication is the cornerstone of a healthy and fulfilling relationship. It goes beyond just exchanging words; it involves listening, understanding, and empathizing with your partner. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the various facets of communication that contribute to successful relationships. Whether you’re in a new romance or a long-term commitment, understanding what good communication looks like can enhance your connection and lead to lasting happiness.

A man and a woman sitting at a table discussing things, learning how to develop good communication skills

Introduction: Nurturing Bonds Through Effective Communication

Communication serves as the bridge that connects two individuals emotionally, intellectually, and romantically. It’s not merely about conveying information but about expressing emotions, thoughts, and desires in a way that is easily understood by your partner. As you embark on this journey to explore what good communication looks like in a relationship, remember that it’s a two-way street where both partners actively participate to create an environment of trust, openness, and understanding.

What Does Good Communication Look Like in a Relationship?

At its core, good communication in a relationship is marked by a genuine exchange of thoughts and feelings, free from judgement or misinterpretation. It involves active listening, empathy, and mutual respect.

It’s important to understand, very literally, what the idea of communication actually represents. When we communicate, not just with our partner, but with any other human being, what we are doing is transmitting something from our brain out into the external world. Most commonly, these are thoughts, feelings or ideas. Any form of communication will share this goal, and so it’s important to recognise that communication, at its core, is about the audience we communicate to.

This goes doubly for inside relationships. You’re not communicating with your partner because you have something you need to say, you’re communicating because you have something you feel your partner needs to know or understand. With this in mind, you can use a couple of metrics to improve your communication to your partner.

Firstly, think about how your partner is likely to respond, not just to the words you’re using but the emotions and tone you’re employing alongside them. Communication breakdown often occurs when one or both people are highly emotive and unaware of how their demeanour or words are going to impact their partner. Considering their response ahead of time will improve your odds of a positive and constructive reception.

Secondly, determine whether what you’re communicating has good intentions. Decisions can be made for the good of one person in a relationship, or the relationship as a whole. When we communicate, especially during conflict or stress, it’s not just to pacify one person’s feelings, it’s to share emotions, to compromise, and to find a resolution for BOTH people involved. If your intentions are selfish, it’s likely you won’t find a very good outcome.

Lastly, check if your language is coming from a perspective of offering something to your partner rather than demanding something. Often, during arguments or heightened situations, people will make absolute statements or demand things from their partners. It’s important to be able to just state your emotions, desires and thoughts in a clear and vulnerable way, without making a demand of your partner as a result. Give your emotions freely to your partner, and allow them to react in their own way first, before you draw any conclusions or make requests.

How To Have A Conversation With Your Partner

If you’re able to follow the above three principles, you should be approaching communicating with your partner with a pretty healthy foundation. When it’s time to have a serious discussion with your partner, here’s what you do.

Come into a conversation with a clear objective. Determine ahead of time what feelings you want to address, what behaviour you wish to discuss, or what problems you feel you need to share. By finding a goal or a desired outcome, you can share it with your partner and work towards it together. It’s a lot easier on you and your partner if both of you are able to understand what you’re hoping to achieve and what it is that you want.

Share feelings, thoughts or issues in a neutral, compassionate tone. We don’t want to come across as assigning blame or that we’re passive aggressively looking for a particular response. The goal of sharing is to allow your partner to hear and understand what is occurring inside your head, which is the entire point of communicating.

Give your partner space to follow up with questions, comments or conflicting issues. Sometimes your partner will surprise you with a different perspective on a similar topic, one that will change the entire trajectory of your conversation. Be ready for that and allow your partner to have their moment to speak. Otherwise, offer clarity if necessary. The goal is to get both of you to an identical understanding of the topic at hand.

It’s likely at some point that your partner will briefly take the lead of the conversation, offering some kind of next step, or asking what behaviour might need to change to fulfil your needs. You need to have a plan for this, or at least be able to workshop ideas together. If what you’re communicating requires change on your partner’s behalf, have an idea of what reasonable changes can be made to address your issue. Whilst it is important to share openly without cajoling or coercing a particular response, it’s unfair to just dump your problems on your partner without a solution in mind that suits the both of you.

Check in with your partner at regular intervals. Ask what they’re feeling and try to get inside their head. If they think what you’re saying is unreasonable, incorrect, or it makes them feel negatively in some way, you want to know about it. If that’s the case, pause your side of the conversation and find a way to address what your partner is feeling. They can’t help you if they’re taking issue with the topic.

If you can, this is the time to be extremely vulnerable and literal with what you’re feeling. If the two of you can reach some solution or compromise, be straightforward and tell them how satisfied that would make you feel. Demonstrate gratitude to your partner for engaging in this discussion with you.

If you do find a solution that addresses your negative feelings, it’s time to let go of the issue. You and your partner have made the best efforts possible to fix your problems and communicate openly. There’s no reason to hold onto negativity. If the two of you have found a solution, accept it wholeheartedly.

Some Additional Principles

With the guidelines and stages of dialogue above, you should be better prepared to have better genuine and honest communication with your partner and the people in your life. Communicating is a skill that demands practice, and the better you can understand your goals and the principles behind effective communication, the more you’ll get out of your practice.

Here are some other, small key elements that contribute to effective communication:

1. Have Honest and Open Dialogue

Engaging in open conversations where both partners feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, even if they differ, is crucial. Honest communication builds trust and eliminates misunderstandings. There’s a time for being polite and withholding certain uncomfortable truths, but during an emotive, vulnerable conversation is not one of them.

2. Develop Active Listening

Listening isn’t just hearing; it’s understanding and responding thoughtfully to what your partner is saying. Put away distractions and show genuine interest in their words. You should be looking to grasp not just what they’re saying at face value, but their intentions and emotions behind their sentences. This is how couples are able to start reading each other’s minds and reduce conflict.

3. Empathy and Understanding is a Skill

Put yourself in your partner’s shoes to truly understand their perspective. Empathy fosters emotional connection and helps resolve conflicts. The most productive communication comes from both partners understanding each other’s feelings and how certain parts of their relationship weigh on the other person.

4. Demonstrate Clear and Concise Expression

Express your thoughts clearly and directly, avoiding vague or confusing language. Clarity reduces the chances of miscommunication. The more literal and straightforward you can phrase things, the better your odds of your partner being able to understand.

5. Be Aware of Non-Verbal Cues

Facial expressions, gestures, and body language can convey emotions and thoughts even before words are spoken. Pay attention to these cues to better understand your partner. You also have these cues. Your partner will subconsciously take in your tone and your body language, and these can produce results you might not expect.

6. Have Patience in Difficult Conversations

Some discussions may be challenging or emotional. Practice patience and give each other the space needed to process and respond. It can be especially tricky if your partner isn’t used to practicing communication in this way or isn’t good at emotional dialogue. Remember that the two of you are collaborating here. Adversarial conflict has very little place in a relationship.

7. Maintain Mutual Respect

Respectful communication involves valuing your partner’s opinions and avoiding derogatory language or belittling remarks. Hopefully, you remember why you care for your partner. Getting lost in some kind of conflict isn’t healthy for anyone involved.

8. Sense of Humor

A shared sense of humor lightens the mood and can diffuse tense situations. Laughter can create a bond that strengthens your connection. Making a brief joke or quip shows your partner that underneath the seriousness, you two still like and care for one another.

9. Ask For and Provide Clarity & Feedback

Constructive feedback helps both partners grow. Learn to give and receive feedback without defensiveness. If your partner wants you to re-explain something or doesn’t understand what you’re trying to communicate, don’t get frustrated. 

10. Share Feelings and Be Vulnerable

Openly share your emotions, desires, and aspirations. This vulnerability deepens intimacy and understanding. You want to really get comfortable with the idea of being vulnerable, not in a sense of setting yourself up to be wounded, but being genuine and authentic, leaving you vulnerable by virtue of showing off your truest and deepest feelings.

11. Time and Attention

Allocate quality time for conversations without distractions. Disconnect from screens and focus on each other. This should be obvious, but anything that takes you away from focusing on the conversation at hand is going to hamper your communication.

12. Acknowledging and Apologising

Admit when you’re wrong and apologise sincerely. Taking responsibility shows maturity and commitment to the relationship. Genuine apologies aren’t conditional or used as a tool, they’re a sincere sentiment to show regret or acknowledge a mistake.

13. Avoid Assumptions

Don’t assume your partner knows what you’re thinking. Communicate openly to prevent misunderstandings.

14. Be Constructive

Disagreements are normal; it’s how you handle them that matters. Focus on finding solutions rather than placing blame. Problem-solving turns to conflict when the perspective of one or both people shift from collaborative to competitive. Your goal isn’t to get the other person to wallow in their mistakes, it’s to stop those mistakes from happening again.

16. Using “I feel like” Statements

Frame your thoughts using “I” statements to express how you feel without sounding accusatory. Stating a feeling or emotion plainly is often one of the most basic ways to generate a productive discussion.

17. Expressing Love and Affection

Verbalize your love and show affection through physical touch, gifts, and acts of kindness. When all is said and done, you and your partner both probably just want some form of intimacy.

Conclusion: Building Lasting Bonds Through Effective Communication

Mastering the art of good communication is a journey that requires patience, effort, and dedication. By implementing the principles outlined in this guide, you can cultivate a deep and meaningful connection with your partner. Remember, communication is the foundation on which strong relationships are built, and nurturing it will lead to a lifetime of shared happiness and understanding.

F.A.Q.s

How can I improve communication with my partner?

Start by actively listening and being open to their perspective. Practice empathy and avoid jumping to conclusions. Regularly check in with each other to maintain a strong connection. The steps above are an excellent framework to check your normal style of communication against. Adopt some of the practices into your normal style and you’ll see immediate results.


What if my partner and I have different communication styles?

Differences in communication styles are common. The key is to acknowledge and respect these differences while finding common ground to ensure effective communication. Your partner may not want to engage in conversations in a similar manner to you. There are still ways to express yourself that don’t involve large, open dialogues.


How do I address sensitive topics with my partner?

Choose an appropriate time and setting, and approach the conversation with sensitivity and respect. Focus on using “I” statements and actively listening to their response.

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About

Cain Parish

Cain Parish is the owner of cainparish.com. A prolific writer, educator and relationship coach since 2019, he specializes in dating, relationships, emotional intelligence and social skills. He is also the author and creator of the world’s largest and most comprehensive database for dating and relationship advice, which can be found on his website. His first book, I’m Sorry I Egged Your House, is due to be published in 2024.

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