Get comfortable about talking to each other to a point that the words ‘babe can we talk?”, do not trigger any fears or defenses. Make it a regular habit to talk, you can even find a buzz word like ‘business time’ to inform your partner that it’s time for serious or formal discussions relating to your relationship.
As such, have a neutral designated place to hold talks, e.g. your study, office, outside patio etc. somewhere that doesn’t hold any sentimental values like the bed or dinner table.
Give your partner your full attention. Once a partner feels like they aren’t being heard, frustration happens which could lead to a chain reaction of other opportunistic issues. Turn off or put down any distraction technology and let your body language send a message of connection and that you are concerned about the topic as much as they are. Look at your partner and make eye contact. The relationship will thrive if you validate each other.
Say more of “I feel…” and not ‘You…” statements. Let your partner know your position in the matter and give them room to decide what their response will be. Invite your partner to share her thoughts, ‘What do you think?” Don’t interrupt! Stay focused, attentive, and connected. Even if you don’t like what you are hearing. Pause, breathe and put your point across e.g. “I could use more help with taking out the trash, do you have any ideas for how we can accomplish this?”
To avoid assumptions and to encourage your partner to hear their own thoughts or statements again, reflect to your partner what you think they are saying. “What I hear you saying is…” or “If I understand you correctly you are saying”, this also gives your partner opportunity to rephrase until message has been conveyed clearly.
Remember there’s always 3 of you in the room. You, Your Partner and the Relationship. Always reach a point where the 3 of your best interests are being fairly met.
Use tentative rather than definite language e.g. “Perhaps we could try…” Or “What if I did”. As opposed to “We must”, “You should”, ‘I will”
Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Relationships are built on honesty. Speak your truth the way you would like to hear it.
Be gentle, calm and respectful. Breathe, count to 10 or go outside if you feel anger or fear rising. This will enable you to edit your criticism. Avoid put downs, insults or negative body language like folding hands or eye rolling. This makes your partner feel defensive and inhibits progress. Be mindful of your tone and body language. If things get heated, change the topic and try again when both calm. If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of negativity, try to lighten things up with some humor or silly behavior. Alternatively, you can also “agree to disagree” and move on from there.
Practice empathy. This is getting into your partner’s shoes and understanding a matter from their perspective. Speak to understand vs. being understood. Seek to give rather than to receive.
Complement each other more, as opposed to always speaking about what is wrong. This will give your relationship a healthy balance. Admit where you are wrong and apologize where you need improvement as an individual. This again shows you are honest, selfless and willing to work on the relationship. Always acknowledge common ground between the two of you.
To avoid physical disconnect or mentally labeling differing opinions as bad, make physical contact whenever speaking to your partner especially about difficult topics e.g. hold their hand, put an arm around their shoulder etc., this can quickly disarm them, and you are most likely to maintain the loving relationship dynamic.