By improving our communication skills, we improve our ability to meet our own needs and the needs of the other person, a win-win for both the short-term satisfaction and long-term sustainability of our relationships.
In a conversation on marriage, resentment, and healing, Canadian professor Dr. Jordan Peterson notes the importance of confrontation in a healthy relationship. The more you can put everything out in the open, the easier it is to overcome issues in the present rather than having them reemerge and drag you down later on.
That said, confrontation doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) be harsh or offensive. Rather, as Peterson puts it, it’s about “figuring out how to articulate your wishes and needs to your partner in a clear, positive manner.” If you can do that, you can strategize together to find solutions when they’re needed, and everyone can feel heard and validated.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the importance of communication in relationships, including some tactics you can put to use right away to improve your own conversations.
How men communicate
Generally speaking, men and women are surprisingly different when it comes to their styles of communication. For instance, while women generally use non-verbal cues to get their point across, men are almost entirely verbal, and may not be well attuned to how their body language is impacting their message.
In addition, men can tend to be very fact- and figure-oriented, often neglecting the emotional context in order to get directly to problem-solving.
While there is nothing wrong with any of these tendencies, different approaches often clash with each other, and can ultimately lead to miscommunication, resentment, distrust, a lack of intimacy, and lasting conflict. As author Tony Robbins points out, this can end a relationship.
However, if we are open and honest with each other, we have the option of building trust instead of breaking it down, establishing a connection that can weather whatever storms we may come up against.
How to make effective relationship communication happen
You have a lot to gain from improving how you relate to others. Effective communication allows you to approach your partner with courage, love, and emotional vulnerability, leading to increased intimacy and a happier relationship.
Not sure where to start? Here are four tips for becoming a better communicator:
- Be a good listener. Listening is just as crucial as talking. Practice active listening by giving verbal cues of attentiveness and reflecting back what the other person is saying. It shows you care about their thoughts just as much as your own and are willing to work with them toward a mutual purpose.
- Identify your communication errors. Do you have a tendency to hide your feelings and just say everything is “okay” when it’s not? Do you tend to lash out and go on the attack even – and especially – when you’re wrong? These and other communication errors can seriously hinder relationships, so it’s best to identify them and work towards more healthy tactics.
- Know where your communication styles differ. Not everyone communicates the same way, and that’s okay. What’s key is to acknowledge your style, your partner’s style, and how they differ so you can navigate conflict when it happens.
- Don’t hold onto resentment. Holding onto things doesn’t make them go away – it only makes them pile up. If something is bothering you, broach the topic respectfully with the other person. Do not let it fester and grow.
We all need connection. If you’re more intentional in the ways you communicate with others, you’ll discover just how much of a difference it can make in the quality of your relationships.