3 Keys for Gentle Communication with Your Partner

Communication is vital to achieving a healthy relationship. If you want to build a foundation of trust, respect, and honesty with your partner, you need to communicate effectively.  No relationship is perfect, and obviously there are going to be times where you disagree. This is normal. However, as a couple it is important to recognize when a small disagreement might be escalating into a situation that could cause serious damage to the relationship. No matter who is at fault, communication is central to beginning the process of compromise before you wind up in a huge fight, or worse, a breakup.

Many relationships fail due to lack of effective communication. Things like bad habits, lack of emotional control, and underdeveloped social skills can hinder your efforts to achieve mutual understanding. For example, if you find it hard to articulate exactly what the problem is, you may resort to shouting and screaming in frustration, which only makes things worse.

Once someone raises their voice in an argument, the automatic reaction is for the other person to raise their voice higher. Then, it’s not long before things get out of control, and someone says something they will come to regret. It doesn’t have to be that way! In order to avoid unnecessary conflict, or diffuse an argument before it escalates, there’s a simple solution. When things start to get a little tense, take a step back and remember these three keys for gentle communication.

1. Be aware of your tone of voice.

Renowned relationship psychologist Dr. John Gottman states in his book The Relationship Cure that only 7% of meaning comes from the words you say, while 38% comes from the tone of voice and speech patterns you use. In other words, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. In order to get your partner to understand your message, it’s important to watch your tone of voice. Avoid speaking in a demeaning, disrespectful or sarcastic tone.

Another thing to watch is the volume of your voice. When things get heated, it’s easy to get carried away. If your partner starts to raise their voice, avoid the temptation to raise yours too. Take a moment and pause. Let them know that raising their voice is inappropriate, and that it will not solve anything. Be gentle, but firm, so that they realize you want a positive outcome to the discussion.

2. Choose the right words to say.

Consider these two sentences:

Sentence no. 1: “You are taking me for granted! You never ask how I feel, and you don’t care whether I like something or not.”

Sentence no. 2: “I feel taken for granted lately. I know you’re busy, but I was thinking maybe we could spend some quality time together this weekend.”

Which of these two sentences would most likely lead to a heated argument?

Obviously, it would be the first one. Why? Because instead of honestly telling your partner what you feel, you immediately make an accusation. Your partner is likely to perceive this as an attack, and feel like they are being blamed. In this situation, it’s only natural for them to react in an emotional way. In the second example, the focus is on your feelings, and you present a potential solution to the problem. You’re not just being honest, you’re asking for what you want.

3. Listen with intent and learn to compromise.

Communication isn’t just about telling people what you want. It’s about listening to, and understanding, other points of view. This is especially true in a relationship, where both partners have different opinions, beliefs, needs, and desires. To achieve a healthy relationship, it takes work to understand and accept each other.

When it’s your partner’s turn to talk, don’t interrupt. While you listen, maintain eye contact and avoid distractions like looking at your phone. Be respectful, and ensure that they know you have their full attention.

Most importantly, try and empathize with where your partner is coming from. Try putting yourself in their shoes instead of just being clouded by your own thoughts. Try and visualize a solution that could work for both of you, or at least help you compromise and meet halfway.

These three important keys for gentle communication will help you minimize conflict in your relationship. Do you have more tips to share? Let me know in the comments below.  

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