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One of the biggest complaints therapists hear from the couples they counsel is, “We just don’t communicate well.” That sentence is both very telling and vague at the same time. The ten strategies below are guidelines that couples can follow to improve their communication. An important point to remember when defining “good communication” in a solid relationship is that “winning” an argument is not the goal, but having both people feel listened to, accepted and understood. Below are 10 “rules” for improving communication in your relationship. See how many you follow and by adopting just one or two more, you can be on your way to improved communication with your partner. First however, look at the short lists of “Don’ts”

“List of Don’ts.”

1. Don’t try and adopt all of them at once.

2. Don’t tell your partner: “this is a list you should follow.” Ask your partner if he/she is interested in “rules for communication” or print the list and leave it lying around, but don’t make the list an issue in itself.

10 Rules to Help Improve Communication with Your Partner

1. Listen to the emotions behind your partner’s words. Being right isn’t as important as being understood.

2.  Focus on what your partner is saying rather than thinking up an answer or rebuttal.

3.  Look at the person who is talking to you. Many people don’t feel listened to unless they are being looked

4. Use the word “I” rather that the word “you.” People tend to hear “you” in a sentence as an accusation, such as “You are yelling at me.” Compare that with “I feel yelled at,” and the speaker takes ownership for the feeling and does not come across as attacking.

5.  When you need to discuss a difficult issue, be sensitive to choosing an appropriate time for the conversation.

6.  State things simply and ask your partner if more detail is needed.

7.  The real meaning of every communication is how it is heard and perceived, not how it is intended.

8. Notice your partner’s reactions – the withdrawal/attack/glassy-eyed responses.

9. Ask questions to learn and understand more about what your partner is saying. Be curious about what is important to your partner.

10. Be attentive to your partner’s response. Notice if you are giving too much detail. For example, if you are a detail person but your partner is not responding, then you can either ask for feedback and involvement or limit the conversation. People can be turned off if they feel like they are being talked at or the conversation is going on for too long.

There are many rules to good communication. The 10 rules above provide a good starting point for couples. You may even want to “evaluate yourself” to see how many of the suggestions you follow. Having a healthy relationship means “playing by the rules.”

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