Learning one or two simple tips on how to communicate better in a relationship can change everything! Here are 20 tips for better communication for couples, to help you improve your relationship and resolve conflict peacefully.
Some of these communication tips are from a course on conflict resolution for couples, and others are from a seven week marriage course my husband and I are taking. These tips can be applied to any relationship – work, family, neighbors – but they’re geared towards better communication in love relationships.
If you’re struggling with communication in your marriage, read How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny. It may surprise you, but NOT having serious sit-down discussions about your marriage is one way to communicate. In fact, learning nonverbal communication skills is one of the best tips on how to communicate better in a relationship. Almost 90% of our communication is done without words.
20 Tips on How to Communicate Better in a Relationship
1. Be gently assertive with your partner. Learning how to be assertive in a relationship is a skill we all need to learn, especially if we want to know how to communicate better. Even though it’s not pleasant to experience conflict in our relationships, we have to learn how to work through problems while asserting our needs. When you’re assertive, you say what you need and you listen to your partner’s needs.
2. Recognize and accept your differences. One of the best tips on how to communicate better in a relationship is recognizing that you and your partner have different opinions, ideas, values, and personalities. This is not good or bad – it’s just something to accept when you’re working on communication skills.
3. Remember that conflict is natural and inevitable in a relationship. Disagreements are normal and healthy. What causes problems is our reaction to conflicts, disagreements, and differing opinions. If you want to learn how to communicate better in a relationship, you need to accept and even welcome conflict.
4. Get comfortable with the idea that conflict in a relationship is not the problem. Problems arise when our attitudes towards conflict are unrealistic or unhealthy. Learning how to successfully deal with conflict is the same thing as learning how to communicate better in a relationship. Learning communication skills can be time-consuming and emotional – and it also can be energizing and growth-producing.
5. Keep talking. The biggest obstacle to learning how to communicate better in a relationship is an inability or unwillingness to talk. When your partner doesn’t talk to you, you have no chance of growing closer together or working through your differences.
6. Work on relationship satisfaction – not just communication. Relationship research from Baylor University shows that when it comes to resolving conflicts, keeping a feeling of satisfaction alive in a relationship is more important than the type of communication you use. It matters less whether you use negative communication (eg, yelling, not listening, getting angry or defensive) or positive communication (eg, paraphrasing your partner’s words so you understand, listening more than talking, etc). More important is your overall happiness in a relationship.
7. Avoid blaming your partner. This tip on how to communicate better in a relationship makes you responsible for how you feel, what you say, and how you respond to your partner. Do not blame your partner for the relationship problems you’re facing – even if he himself says he’s to blame for everything! Successful communication is about taking responsibility for your feelings, thoughts, and actions.
8. Know when to walk away. Good communicators know when they’re too angry, frustrated, or hurt to talk. Healthy people are in touch with when it’s better to avoid communication because it may lead to bigger, more destructive problems. Avoidance can be a legitimate option if it keeps you and your loved ones physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe.
9. Remember that learning how to communicate better in a relationship involves being aware of your past – and your childhood. Research on conflict resolution in relationships shows that our ability to recover from a disagreement in a relationship may depend on what we were like as infants. People who were more securely attached to their caregivers as infants are better at recovering from conflict and relationship problems 20 years later.
10. Maintain a sense of humor. In the marriage course my husband and I took, we learned that inserting funny moments into disagreements can lighten moods and improve communication. Of course, this tip on how to communicate better in a relationship involves knowing when it’s appropriate to joke with your partner, and what types of jokes to make! I do not like it when my husband jokes around when I’m trying to discuss something serious – but a joke is different than inserting a funny moment into a disagreement.
11. Look for the positive in the disagreements. Resolving conflict in your relationship is an opportunity for growth and personal transformation. Learning how to communicate better in a relationship is about welcoming conflict into our lives because helps us grow and change in positive ways. When you’re having a serious discussion with your partner, try to shift from a negative to a more positive frame of mind.
12. Don’t talk past 10 pm. This tip on how to communicate better in a relationship is from the marriage course – and it’s one of the most practical ones. The later it gets, the more tired you and your partner are. Fatigue causes fights, so don’t practice your communication skills after 10 pm!
13. Learn how to stop ruminating on past disagreements. After a fight – or just a serious discussion with your partner – it’s healthier to let your feelings of anger, frustration, impatience, or bitterness go. If you ruminate on your negative emotions and disagreements, you will suffer mentally, emotionally, and even physically.
14. Be aware of verbal and/or emotional abuse. In Surprising Examples of Verbal Abuse in Relationships, I describe a variety of ways we “communicate” with each other…and many of these ways are actually abusive. Learning how to communicate better in a relationship always involves being sensitive to abuse – especially when those words come from our own mouths.
15. Accept that you may work harder on communication than your partner. Relationship research shows that women see the maintenance of their romantic relationships as a team sport, involving equal input from both partners. Shared goals and beliefs are key to success – and so is learning how to communicate better in a relationship. In contrast, men were found to exist at a greater distance from both of their closest relationships. Successful relationships are much more essential to women’s well-being, while men seem to keep their relationships at arm’s length.
16. Stay true to yourself. This is my favorite tip on how to communicate better in a relationship, because I find it easy to let myself get lost in my relationships. If you’re true to yourself, it is easier to act in ways that build intimacy in relationships. If you’re true to you, your relationship will be more fulfilling to both you and your partner. Staying true to yourself doesn’t mean you should accept all your flaws and not try to make positive changes in a relationship. Be aware of both your limitations and areas where you can improve.
17. Touch your partner – a hug or hand squeeze goes a long way in difficult conversations. In our marriage course, we learned that affectionate communication – hair strokes, hugs, touches – can make a positive impact when you’re communicating about something difficult in a relationship. The moment you touch one another, your negative feelings decrease and you feel less anxious. Of course, this tip on communicating better really depends on the couple, the nature of the disagreement, and the type of touch.
18. Use positive words. This is one of the simplest tips on how to communicate better in a relationship. How often do you say words such as love, compassion, joy, peace, kindness, and care when you are communicating with your partner? Do you call him sweetheart, hunny bunny, lover boy, dear, or cuddle muffin? The more positive your interactions, the happier you’ll both be.
19. Learn your partner’s love language. My favorite way to receive love is “words of affirmation.” So, my husband goes a long way when he communicates with me this way! My husband’s preferred way to receive love is physical touch, which means I should be using the 17th tip on how to communicate better in a relationship all the time! What is your partner’s love language? What is yours? If you don’t know, read Examples of the Five Love Languages.
20. My final tip on how to communicate better in a relationship is to ask your partner, “How can I communicate better with you?” He may not know, and that’s okay. You might also ask your family and close friends for communication tips. You never know what they’re observing about you, and what they’d like you to know about your communication style. If you do this, though, you have to promise not to get mad when your loved ones give you suggestions on how to communicate better!
I welcome your thoughts – and tips – on how to communicate better in a relationship below.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.