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Effective communication with partners: a how-to guide!

Having meaningful conversations that make everyone involved feel safe and supported is very important for the wellbeing of all relationships.

However, as with everything else worth doing well, it can take time and practice. Getting to know the best way to communicate with the people close to you can be tricky, what you would appreciate out of an interaction might not be the same for everyone you engage with.

Here are some tried and true guidelines that can help you navigate tough convos with the people in your life

Use "I" statements to express your own thoughts and feelings.

A person points at a wall, the sunlight from a window makes a shadow in the shape of a hand appear and point right back at the person in the picture.

When having a conversation with your partner, it's important to remember that you are both on the same team. Your mindset should be to reach the same goal together.

When expressing yourself, you can use "I" statements instead of "you" statements to avoid making your partner feel attacked right off the bat. This helps maintain the focus on how YOU feel about a situation rather than placing blame on someone else for what they do (or don’t do).

Using "you" phrases can come across as accusatory and make them act defensive and derail the conversation without giving them time to process what has been said or give an explanation for their side of the situation. Remember that if there's no room left for a positive discussion after using accusatory language, then there won't be any progress made at all!

Actively listen to your partner.

A digital flame effects forms the shape of an ear on a black background.

When you've had the chance to explain your feelings about an issue and it's your partner's turn to express themselves, it's important to listen without interrupting. After all, they also have things they want to say! This can be hard when we're focused on our own thoughts and feelings. But if you really want to understand what your partner is going through, then make an effort not to cut them off or dismiss their concerns before they've had a chance to discuss them fully.

When listening actively:

  • Listen without judgment— don't assume that what your partner says is wrong just because it differs from what you would do in the same situation; instead of criticizing their ideas or opinions, try asking questions like "What do you think about [situation]?" or "Why do you feel that way?" to understand where they're coming from.
  • Don't let distractions get between you and effective communication with others (e.g., phones ringing, TV in the background, etc.). If something comes up during conversation time together (like someone calling), pause until after answering the call before returning back into conversation mode again!

Be open about your thoughts, feelings, and needs.

A glass window storefront shows neon lights that read "What is your story?"

Vulnerability may be hard but it's key to good communication. You should be open about your emotions and the things you want out of a situation. This means that you don't play guessing games with your partner or shut down when they try to talk to you about something important.

You can also use this advice in other parts of life: if a coworker asks if you’re okay going to a steakhouse (and you’re vegan) or if your roommate wants to move out on a whim with their new partner, don't just say "yes" without giving it some thought and communicating first!

Respect your partner's boundaries.

Two arms from different people are shown next to one another, their pinkies are interlaced

Respect your partner's wishes, feelings and privacy as you'd want yours to be respected. This is a good rule to live by in all relationships. If you're not sure what your partner wants, ask them directly! It's important to understand when the people in your life are not in the best mental place to communicate, perhaps they had a hard day at work or they've been sick so they don't have the energy to sit down for a pow wow.

Don't be passive-aggressive.

A black and white picture of a man sitting down and covering part of his face with his hand. What's visible of his expression seems to be troubled.

This is the most important rule of all. A good conversation is one where you are able to confidently exchange thoughts and get to know each other better without pressure, but that can prove difficult if you don't have the right tools to approach a more serious discussion.

Don't be passive-aggressive! If something bothers or upsets you, say it directly and calmly, explaining your reasoning so that your partner can see where you're coming from and respond accordingly. They might not understand what their actions mean for you unless they hear it from your perspective first. So don't assume anything; just be clear about how certain situations or actions make YOU feel before proceeding with any further conversation about how you think the other person might change their behavior.

Be willing to make amends when necessary.

A calligraphy font reads the word "Sorry" on a bubblegum pink background.

As you may have guessed from your own experience, this is a vital part of all relationships. Nobody is perfect and at some point of your life (or several), you'll on the giving or receiving end of an offense. I'm going to tell you a very important truth: it's okay to make mistakes, but it's not okay to make the same mistake over and over again without trying to address it and change for the better. If you find yourself doing something that causes your partner distress or frustration on a regular basis, then it's time for some self-reflection.

It can be difficult to admit when we're wrong and it requires vulnerability from all parties to make things progress positively. So how do we go about making amends? Start by listening! Listen closely when your partner tells their story; try not only hearing what they say but also understanding why they feel this way—what message did their behavior send? Once you are both ready for an open conversation about these issues, apologize sincerely without excuses or blame shifting—this shows respect and a willingness to move forward.

Healthy communication with your partner is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

A couple sits at a coffee shop and holds hands. While their faces are not shown, they lean toward each other and seem to be engaged in conversation.

Talking about your wishes and concerns is a very important social talent to develop. It's also important that you listen when your partner is talking about theirs. Healthy communication allows you and your partner to express yourselves in a way that respects each other, as well as the relationship. A healthy relationship will have boundaries that are understood and respected by both parties, and effective communication helps ensure these are maintained over time even if you change as people.

I hope you found this helpful! Communication is a skill that takes practice so be patient and remember it’s a valuable emotional resource to have. If your partner is struggling with their ability to communicate with others or themselves, consider discussing these guidelines with them or seeking professional tools to guide your interactions.

Please note that the information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking treatment because of something you have read on this blog. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately. The author of this blog is not a medical professional and the information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice.