Communication issues are one of the biggest concerns for couples. This is especially true when partners don’t feel understood. By working on your listening skills, keeping arguments current, using humor and watching non-verbal cues, you can communicate with your spouse more effectively.
Listen to Understand
Really listening to your spouse with the intent to understand is critical to good communication, asserts psychologist John M. Grohol in the article "9 Steps to Better Communication Today," published on Psych Central. If you find that you are not quite getting the point, ask. For example, if your partner says, “I never want to go over there again because she’s a jerk!” -- follow with a statement such as, “I hear you saying that you don’t want to go to my mother’s house for Thanksgiving because she’s mean sometimes. Is that right?” Understanding the core issue at hand is a big first step in solving the problem, especially if you find out that the real reason your partner wants to stay home is because she's intimidated by your mother’s fabulous turkey skills.
Keep Arguments Current
Bringing up old fights rarely helps partners work through new ones. By focusing on the issue at hand, you increase the chances that you will ultimately be able to resolve it. If you are having a debate about buying a new car, avoid telling your partner that you hate the way he leaves his socks on the floor. Keeping any communication to the issue at hand will increase the odds that both parties will understand the concerns of the other and decreases the chance for confusion by bringing up other issues.
Use Non-Verbal Communication Too
Watching your partner for signs of distress such as a tight mouth might give you a hint that it’s time to take a break and cool off for a few minutes, as most communicate less effectively when they are already upset. But aside from knowing when to run, physical, or non-verbal, signs of caring — like hugs and kisses — can also be used to communicate affection. These loving gestures are more common in dating relationships than in marriages, as noted in research by N.M. Punyanunt-Carter, published in 2004 in “Psychological Reports” -- which may be one reason that satisfaction in relationships declines over time. Using an extra hug or kiss to express your love for your partner might help to drive home the point that you care, even during a heated debate.
Humor improves relationships, decreases aggression and improves mental and physical healing, assert authors B. Castro et al., in "Using Humor to Reduce Stress and Improve Relationships," published in 1999 in “Seminars for Nursing Management.” But the fact that it reduces stress may make humor your biggest ally in effective communication. When stressed, individuals are more likely to stop listening to the other and have less ability to make rational decisions or have logical discussions. Looking at the lighter side of the situation, comparing the situation to something amusing you watched together on television or even making fun of the way you said something may help to diffuse the anger and allow both of you to communicate more effectively.
Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.
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