couple-handsGood communication is key to every healthy relationship. It nurtures feelings of love, admiration and respect. Bad communication tears relationships apart, and you with it.

When you or someone you are in a relationship with feels undervalued, disrespected or unappreciated it can’t grow or even sustain itself for long without serious consequences.

It all begins with self respect, which includes respecting your need to be heard; acknowledging that what you have to say matters. Good communication also requires empathy or sensing what it’s like to be in their shoes. For this you need three important skills: 1) active listening, 2) speaking up and 3) making sure you’re heard.

Active Listening

You may think you’re listening to your partner, but are you? Or are you already coming up with a solution before they’ve finished speaking? Are you preparing a defense? If so, you’re not really listening.

When you’re really listening, you don’t talk or even plan what to say. You make eye contact to let the person know you’re focused. You look behind the words or tone to uncover the true essence of their message.

Showing that you are paying attention validates your partner. It sends the message: you can share sensitive thoughts and feelings without fear of criticism or attack. You’ve taken the trouble to understand what your partner has said. It doesn’t mean you agree.

couple-treeSpeaking Up

Speaking up effectively takes self-respect, courage and empathy. These skills require guidance and practice.
Other things to pay attention to are your timing, tone of voice and body language. Be brief, frank, clear and to the point. Combined with active listening and being heard you create more opportunity for your relationships to thrive.

Making Sure You’re Heard

The biggest complaint in relationships is, “I’m not being heard.” The following tips can help you make sure you ARE heard:

  1. Ask how he feels about what you said.
  2. Say what you need to say again, in other words.
  3. Ask her to tell you what she just heard.
  4. Validate any knee-jerk reaction by acknowledging ‘I understand this is hard for you because of (his issue) but I need you to hear me without judging me.’
  5. Ask her how she thinks you can solve it together.
  6. Ask him if he’s unable to give it his full attention, and why.

Cultivating good communication is the backbone of relationship coaching. It begins with awareness of yourself, trust in your coach and the willingness to venture outside your comfort zone.

Your stress levels will go way down. You might not recognize yourself!