No matter how long you and your partner have been together, even small arguments become mountains when your communication skills are lacking. Your ineffective communication habits can cause your partner to fire back insults, retreat from the situation or even emotionally detach from you, warns professor of communications Preston Ni in the "Psychology Today" article "Are You a Poor Communicator? How to Improve." For a healthier relationship, learn several strategies to improve conversation between you and your loved one.
Know What Not to Say
Try to limit your use of the word "you," suggests Ni. Oftentimes people use this word to assign blame or judge their partner without even realizing it. For example, you might say, "You aren't even listening." This, in turn, causes your partner to take a defensive stance. It would be better to say, "We need to work on communicating" or "I don't think I'm being clear." Ni also suggests that you avoid universal terms, such as "always" and "never," which usually accompany exaggerations or overgeneralizations. For example, replace, "You never wash dishes" with "The dishes are piling up again."
While it's a vital part of communicating, listening is a little trickier than most people assume, warns psychologist John M. Grohol in the "Psych Central" article "Nine Steps to Better Communication Today." If you are already focusing on what you're going to say next before your partner finishes her statement, you risk missing part of her message. Instead, before you make a response, force yourself to repeat or paraphrase what she just said. If she says, "The house is becoming a mess," rephrase it into a question, "Do you think we need to do some cleaning?"
Practice honesty with yourself and with your partner, reminds Grohol. For example, you might yell at your partner for going out for a few drinks with her sister when the actual problem is that you feel left out or lonely. Before you accuse her of being irresponsible or fickle, take a moment to write down your feelings on paper. As you write, you might discover that the problem you're facing isn't what it seems to be. Communicate your true insecurities with your partner, and you can work on fixing them together.
Watch the Nonverbal Cues
Both your body and your partner's body are constantly communicating, whether you're talking or not. Practice observing your partner's nonverbal cues so you can pick up on what he's not saying, suggests the HelpGuide.org article "Effective Communication." Perhaps when he's hiding his anger he will begin playing with his fingernail in an attempt to express disinterest. Also become more aware of your own body language so you don't send mixed signals. For example, if you want to communicate friendliness, be sure your body language is open -- with your arms uncrossed and your eye contact constant and relaxed.