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We all know that communication within our relationships can always be improved. Communication with a partner can be both constructive and destructive, evident through what and how things are said. Constructive communication is demonstrated through language that involves openness to other opinions, a tone that represents calmness, and accurately embodies the topic. Compared to destructive communication involving condescending terminology, unwavering statements, tones that are angry or unnaturally loud deep or high pitched.

The communication in a partnership does not need to be destructive to benefit from change. Good can always be better. For example, a good rule of thumb when making requests is to use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, as they make a request feel much less demanding.
Following are four key techniques that can easily be incorporated into your relationship, to better all types of communication. Included in each technique is an example of how to change a conversation from good to better when discussing going out for dinner.

  • Moving from using Closed-ended questions to incorporating Open-ended questions. Closed questions only require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. For example, “Do you want to go for dinner?” can be changed to an open-ended question that requires a more detailed and ‘meaty’ answer, like “What type of dinner would you like tonight?”.
  • Active listening. Being willing to listen to the full answer to the question allows you to show attention and care towards the speaker. For example, “I would like to go out for dinner…” pause, instead of jumping in with another question, wait five seconds and gauge the body language of the speaker, often there will be a continuation such as “but I am worried about finances” or “how about trying the new steakhouse?”. Waiting allows the speaker to gather their thoughts, and ensures the listener has all the immediate pertinent information before they respond.
  • Being open to other opinions. In dual conversations there are often opinions or choices that are different from your own. Instead of getting frustrated or speaking louder to ensure your opinion holds true. Ask questions that encourage elaboration and discussion allowing for compromise. For example, “I’m not sure I’m in the mood for steak, how about we try the Mongolian place instead?” In doing this, you are acknowledging the other person, while still including your thoughts and allowing them the chance to counter.
  • Finally, it’s easy to discuss choices on what to do, or things that need to be done; work, kids, house repairs. But what do you talk about when those ‘easy’ items become all the conversations? How do you broaden your discussions? There are a lot of easy conversation starters that include easy to difficult questions on the internet. A google search would be ‘relationship conversation starters.’ These random lists of questions are great to help you get to know new and old things about your partner. For example, while out for dinner “What was your favourite movie as a child? Why?” Or for a more in-depth relationship question “Where would you like to see us in 5 or 10 years?”

These are four easy techniques to incorporate to help move conversations from good to better. They are helpful to avoid falling into destructive traps, that involve angry and closed off tones and condescending language. Communication does not have to be scary or boring within a relationship. It can be fun and exciting and help deepen an emotional connection and encourage further understanding and knowledge about your partner.

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