How to Improve Communication
Consider Your Attachment Style
Think about how your attachment style might affect your communication patterns. Attachment styles are your characteristic patterns of behavior in relationships. Your early attachment style, which emerges in childhood based on relationships with caregivers, can continue to affect how you behave and respond in adult romantic relationships.
If you have an insecure attachment style, you may be more likely to engage in communication patterns that can be seen as anxious or avoidant. Recognizing how your attachment style affects how you interact with your partner (and how your partner’s style affects how they interact with you) can give you clues into what you might need to work on.
Be Fully Present
In order to make sure that both of you are listening and understanding, minimize distractions and focus on being fully present when you are communicating. This might involve setting aside time each day to really focus on one another and talk about the events of the day and any concerns you may have.
Limiting your device use at certain times of day, such as during meals or at bedtime, can be a great way to focus on your partner without having your attention pulled in different directions.
Use “I” Statements
Sometimes the way that you talk to each other can play a major role in communication problems. If you are both focusing on arguing facts without talking about feelings, arguments can quickly turn into debates over who is “right” or who gets the last word.
“I” statements are focused on what you are feeling instead of your partner’s behavior. For example, instead of saying “You are never on time,” you might say “I get worried when you don’t arrive on time.”
Using this type of statement can help conversations seem less accusatory or blaming and instead help you and your partner focus on the emotions behind some of the issues you are concerned about.1
Avoid Negative Communication Patterns
When you are tempted to engage in behavior like ignoring your partner, using passive-aggressive actions, or yelling, consider how your actions will negatively affect your relationship. It isn’t always easy to change these patterns, since many of them formed in childhood, but becoming more aware of them can help you start to replace these destructive behaviors with healthier, more positive habits.
Focus on Your Relationship
While good communication is important, research suggests that it is just one of many factors that impact the success, duration, and satisfaction in relationships.
In fact, research seems to suggest that your satisfaction with your relationship might predict how well you and your partner communicate. The more satisfied people are in their relationship, the more likely they are to openly talk about their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and problems with one another.2
When to Get Help
There are many steps you can take to improve the communication in your relationship on your own, but there may be times that you feel like professional help might be needed. Couples therapy can be a great way to address communication problems that might be holding your relationship back.
A therapist can help identify unhelpful communication patterns, develop new coping techniques, and practice talking to one another in more effective ways. They can also address any underlying resentments or other mental health issues that might be having a detrimental impact on your relationship.
A Word From Verywell
Effective communication in a relationship allows people to tell other people what they need and to respond to what their partner needs. It allows people to feel understood, validated, and connected to another person.
Always remember that the goal of communicating is to understand one another. It isn’t about sweeping problems under the rug in order to prevent all conflict. Instead, focus on listening to understand and responding with empathy and care. If you and your partner are struggling with communication issues, consider talking to a therapist for advice and tips on how to cope.
- Rogers SL, Howieson J, Neame C. I understand you feel that way, but I feel this way: the benefits of I-language and communicating perspective during conflict. PeerJ. 2018;6:e4831. doi:10.7717/peerj.4831
- Lavner JA, Karney BR, Bradbury TN. Does couples’ communication predict marital satisfaction, or does marital satisfaction predict communication?: couple communication and marital satisfaction. Journal of Marriage and Family. 2016;78(3):680-694. doi:10.1111/jomf.1230