5 Communication Skills to Create a Stronger Relationship

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Couple cuddling

A silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it’s encouraged us to learn new and important things about ourselves and how valuable our relationships are — and probably that signing up for every online event, newsletter, workout class, living room zoom party and whatever else was a bit much. Like, WAY too much.

Along with that, we’ve learned just how important it is to slow down and connect with the ones we love more intentionally.  Read on for 5 ways to keep communication clear, open and healthy with yourself and those you care most about. 

SELF-REFLECTION

Raise your hand if you’ve ever fallen into a social media scrolling spiral. One where you’re not even really looking at the screen anymore, you’re just aimlessly going through the motions. An excess amount of time on social media bombards us with information and over-stimulation.

This can stunt deeper critical thinking and your ability to process what’s going on in your life, what’s bumping around in your subconscious and how you’re truly feeling. Taking the time and space to sit with this is a practice that might feel uncomfortable at times, but it is so rewarding to let those things breathe.

You can do this by: 

  • Journaling and/or free writing by hand (this is important!), for even just 10-15mins. 
  • Meditating — Check out the Limbus Movement, a local female-run business that offers FREE meditation practices and workouts. 
  • Having a verbal conversation with yourself. Ask yourself what’s up today and give honest answers. 

Some of these tactics might feel strange if you’re not used to them but they’re meant to — they encourage you to use your mind in news ways and get to know yourself better. 

FEEL THINGS OUT

The mental health trope of relentless positivity and “good vibes only” is a pretty steadfast social media trend. The power of positivity is undeniable. However, toxic positivity IS a thing. Denying or dismissing negative thoughts and feelings before they can process can lead to repression, resent anxiety and, yup, depression. Not fun. 

As corny as can sound, set aside time to simply feel — to recognize where emotions are hanging out in your body and what those sensations feel like to let them release. Doing so can help create more room for genuine, not forced, positivity and optimism in your daily life. Click here for more tips on how to practice this effectively.

Communication by hugging

BE VULNERABLE

You saw this one coming and for good reason. There is a TON of value in this Brene Brown-ism. It can be extremely hard to truly open up to others and let them see our clunky, less graceful and raw selves. Socially and culturally, we have some hardcore values around self-composure, success and achievement that can be rather exclusive of, ya know, fucking up and being human and even just having a powerful emotion! 

But things are changing and emotional-wisdom is becoming more appreciated. Being vulnerable can manifest differently for each person and can take time, patience and practice. So be kind to yourself. 

It typically looks like: 

  • Being open about your raw, honest thoughts and feelings 
  • Sharing stories and memories that are meaningful to you 
  • Trying new things and accepting the risk of “failing” 
  • Normalizing failure, difficult emotions and experiences as an important part of life
  • Letting yourself succeed and sharing in those successes! 
  • Asking for or offering help where it’s needed 

Being vulnerable is brave. It is self-empowering. And it can be an enormous source of strength and inspiration to yourself and your partner. 

ASSERTIVE COMMUNICATION

Assertive communication skills involves being honest, clear and direct about your needs, thoughts and feelings while being considerate and validating those of others. Aggressive communication is accusatory, malicious and hurtful. Passive aggressiveness is indirect, pouty and creates atmospheric tension. 

Achieving the fine balance of assertiveness can be tricky, especially if you’re not accustomed to making your needs a priority. However, it’s a nearly fool-proof way to express yourself to your partner, friends, and pretty well anyone about your boundaries and your beliefs.

Assertive communication involves:

  • Starting statements with “I feel”, “I think”, and “I am” vs. “You made me feel”, “You think”,  “You are”, etc. — this is especially beneficial during an argument. 
  • Using active verbs like “I will”, “I can”, “I want”, “I need” vs passive verbs like “coulda, shoulda, woulda”. 
  • Avoiding using “but” in statements. This can negate the positives exchanges in a conversation and/or belittle the meaning of what was previously said by yourself or your partner. Say what ya gotta say and stick to it folks!
Communication active listening

ACTIVE LISTENING

Put down the dang phone. Turn it off. Leave it in another room. Whatever you have to do to be fully present with yourself and with your partner, please do it. Of course, that’s with the exception that your phone is the only way to communicate with your partner at the moment.  Either way, steer clear of clicking around through your apps while chatting, watching a movie, having dinner, etc. 

Many of us like to think we can multitask super well and look at a bazillion memes while spending time with other people. But the reality is, you just can’t listen to others at the same depth of when you’re NOT on a mental merry-go-round.

Active listening is when we set our intention to: 

  • Listen to be educated
  • Listen to build trust and bond 
  • Listen to gain understanding and empathy 
  • Listen for fun and pleasure! 

This involves allocating your attention directly to the person who is speaking to you. It can be really hard to focus and be a strong active listener when we’re under stress and dealing with a lot of anxiety. It’s well worth practicing though and is such a simple way to insanely improve communication in a relationship. 

Click here for more ways to enhance your relationships with fun dates, meaningful activities and more!