Unhealthy relationships are typically marked by consistent, destructive behaviors. As communication is a form of behavior, aggressive communication or a lack of effective communication can impact a relationship negatively. If your primary relationships right now seem strained, it’s an ideal time to learn new strategies to communicate better in your relationships with the most important people in your life.
Learning to communicate better in your relationship is an important part of the recovery journey. Some ways you can accomplish that are by paying attention to nonverbal communication, being direct and honest, and creating time for full conversations. Recognizing your partner or family member’s communication styles (indirect, direct, passive, assertive, and aggressive) can minimize conflict, too.
1. Pay attention to nonverbal communication first.
Some of the most important pieces of communication come without words. They appear in body language, posture, eye contact, gestures, touch, and other forms. They give hints about what a person is feeling and thinking.
Paying attention to a person’s nonverbal communication can let you know when there’s something they may not be revealing. Look for what changes in your partner’s nonverbal gestures when discussing specific topics. Also, consider what your own nonverbal communication might be saying to your loved one.
2. Be direct and honest, but remain respectful.
Expecting other people to know what you want is a passive-aggressive approach to communication. It can lead to bitterness and resentment. Assuming they should draw a specific conclusion on something vague you said will likely end up disappointing you.
Effective communication involves saying what’s on your mind openly and authentically. It should still be delivered with kindness and respect. By making what you want and need clear, you can avoid any confusion about what you’re asking for from your loved one.
3. Ask questions and allow time for a full response.
Asking questions is more than just about information. It expresses your curiosity and interest in your partner. It lets them know you desire to know more about them and understand them better.
Often in long-term relationships, we assume we know the answers to our questions already. We may not take the time to actually listen for the real answer because we’ve already crafted it in our minds. Asking questions should be followed up by listening to the response and asking follow-up questions. It shouldn’t feel like an interview or an interrogation; it is simply a way to connect and be present.
4. Create time for actual conversations.
With a barrage of social media apps and other quick ways to communicate, communication can be reduced to a quick exchange of information. For example, sending someone details via text or direct message isn’t a conversation. It’s merely a transaction. If this is typical behavior for you, you can shift the dynamic and grow stronger as a couple or family unit.
With demanding schedules, carving out time to have a real conversation can be challenging, but it is critical. Setting aside time daily and weekly to discuss important topics, urgent needs, and plans can be valuable. Scheduling this time is an option. You may also want to use family routines, such as dinner time, to have these conversations.
5. Consider alternative spaces for deeper conversations.
Lighthearted conversations can occur anywhere, but the right environment may facilitate more serious discussions. A place that gives you privacy to speak openly is important. Knowing yourself and your partner’s preferences can help you determine what kind of space is ideal for each conversation.
Some couples flourish when the conversation can take place while they’re doing physical activity. The focus is placed on the activity itself and may reduce some of the pressure connected to the topic. Other couples prefer to sit down and talk face-to-face. The environment that works for you two to communicate better in your relationship may differ at times, too.
6. Recognize the other person’s communication style differences.
Ignoring differences in communication styles can lead to a lot of frustration. For example, an assertive partner may wish their passive loved one would speak up and be more direct. An indirect partner may wish their direct loved one would be less direct.
Creating better communication isn’t about changing your partner’s communication style nor is it about switching to their style. Instead, it’s about negotiating ways to have your styles peacefully coexist. The result of recognizing your loved one’s differences is being able to deliver your message in a way they can receive and understand and vice versa.
7. Remain present with the other person during conversation.
We’re expected to multitask at work and home every day. We get thousands of messages through media, social media, and people in our environments. It can feel like a struggle to stay mentally present at any given time.
To develop effective communication habits, it’s essential to pause on addressing every other demand in your life when you and your loved one are having a conversation. Being present means setting aside any outside distraction and allowing 100% of your mind and body to hear what’s being said and to respond fully.
Effective communication is especially essential when a loved one is seeking help for recovery or in a treatment program. Old communication habits, perhaps destructive, will need to be replaced. Learning to talk to your loved one and listen is part of rebuilding the trust that accompanies every person working to create a sober life.
Origins Counseling is a program in Dallas, Texas, made available by a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We provide a comprehensive diagnostic assessment and evaluation, as well as renowned clinical care for addiction. We have the compassion and professional expertise needed to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561.841.1264.