6 Tips for Open Communication

We've talked to over 100 couples and asked them all the same question, 

What is one piece of advice you would tell yourself when you first started dating?

The most common response was to have more open communication, sooner. One woman said to us "Always have open communication. When we first got married, I would always expect him to do things and just to know. I mean it was evident, and hew knew me.  But over time I realized maybe it's not obvious to him and I should voice it." 

How many times in life do we assume people understand how we feel or what we're thinking? How many times have we gotten frustrated because they didn't understand us? What are ways that I can be better about communicating more openly in all of my relationships? 

Remember, you are in complete control of this argument and are capable of working it out or walking away. 

Here are 5 simple ways to start building more open communication in your relationship.

1. Ask: Providing the opportunity for your partner to voice how they are feeling shows them you care to make improvements in your relationship. 

"How can I be a better [partner or spouse] to you?"  

This question opens the door for ultimate vulnerability because you're asking them to tell you areas you can improve in. However, it reassures them that you care about the relationship and want to learn how to love them better. 

2. Reflect: What are some areas in your relationship that have been frustrating to you? Why?

Many people don't stop to ask themselves what exactly they are frustrated about. When you don't know what you want, it can make it easy to lash out in emotion rather than reason. 

Why do you have this expectation? 
What is this expectation rooted in?  
Is this something your partner should be giving you? 
Does it come from the relationship between your parents? 
Does it have to be this way? Is it the best way for us? 

3. Voice: Knowing what you want is half the battle but being able to talk about it is the other half.

Don't wait until it's unbearable and you're fuming. Some ways to start the conversation is "It means a lot to me when you... " or "It would mean a lot to me if you..."

If you're already upset, try approaching the conversation with
"It makes me feel...when..."

This is a well-known tactic to use because it's less about what they are doing but how you are feeling. It can reveal to the other person that they are hurting you and feel less like an attack from you. Talking about how you are feeling can seem vulnerable, but it allows for deeper conversations about why you're upset. 

4. Acknowledgment: Praise your partner for the things they are doing right. 

Having these conversations are already a huge step in the right direction. Thank them for the effort or things they do for you. When you intentionally pay attention, they might be doing little things you never noticed. Acknowledgment forms greater gratitude in your heart but also serves as encouragement to your partner. Feeling like you're failing at your relationship is horrible, so your praises are a great morale booster! If not, it might seem easier to give up than to keep trying since their efforts are going unnoticed. 

5. Validate: "What I hear you say is."

A good way to calm the fire during a disagreement is repeating what you hear the other saying. It helps them see you are listening and prevent the argument from escalating. Disagreements quickly get out of hand when there's assumptions or misunderstandings of the problem at hand. When you validate or repeat what you're hearing, it gives them an opportunity to correct something you might have misinterpreted. 

6. Patience: Change doesn't happen instantly 

No effective change happens immediately, and nobody is perfect. Remember, the two of you are a constant evolution and who you are today will be different from who you are 5 years from now. Give them the patience they need to evolve over time. Remember to give yourself a bit of grace, for the person you are becoming too. 

What are some ways you navigate having open communication in your relationship? Is there anything you'd like to add? I'd love to hear from you, leave comments below! 

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