The desire to connect with other people is a universal need. Relationships, whether they're with a significant other, a family member or a friend, enhance your happiness and give you a sense of belonging. Even though social relationships are an essential part of a fulfilling life, it takes good communication to foster and grow that bond. Sadly, people don't always know how to express themselves constructively, which can lead to poor communication in the relationship.
When we don't know how to properly tell another person what we're thinking or feeling it can make them feel defensive, leads to fights and ultimately worsen the relationship. The good news is you can learn good communication techniques with a little bit of practice.
The first step is recognizing some of the common communication mistakes that crop up in relationships. Once you understand these, you can avoid them and practice positive ways to speak to those you care for.
Common Communication Mistakes in Relationships and How to Fix Them
Poor communication is one of the top reasons couples, friends and family members experience problems in their relationships. It can create distance between family members, break up friendships and is one of the leading causes of divorce. Recognizing communication issues and taking steps toward change can help heal your relationships.
Here are four common communication mistakes that can hurt your relationships as well as the keys to fixing them:
1. "You" Language
Blame is an easy trap to fall into when you're trying to communicate how you feel. You get frustrated at your partner or friend, and your language becomes judgemental. When trying to communicate your feelings, "you" language only comes across as an accusation:
- You don't do enough around the house.
- You need to spend more time with me.
- You don't listen to me.
These statements put all the blame on the other person and make them totally at fault without taking any responsibility yourself.
Instead of using "you" language, try to communicate how you feel without casting blame. If you can get the other person to understand what you're thinking or feeling without throwing judgment, then they won't feel the need to defend themselves from you.
2. Universal Statements
When we feel that another person is not pulling their weight in the relationship, we tend to jump to universal statements about them:
- You always go out without me.
- You never help with the kids.
- You forget to put the toilet set down every time.
These absolute statements focus on what the other person is doing wrong and how you feel they should be better. Funnily enough, speaking like this to people you care about discourages change.
Instead of speaking in absolutes, examine your relationship and find things you appreciate about the other person. When your loved one feels valued, they're more open to your needs. Then you may be able to point out areas of improvement without it coming across as an accusation.
3. Confrontational Tone
Even if what you're saying isn't negative, the way you speak to your loved one can cause problems. The tone of voice goes a long way toward how something is received. If you sound negative, the other person automatically becomes defensive.
Before speaking to your partner or friend, check yourself and where the statement is coming from. Tone often sounds negative if what you are saying comes from a confrontational place. If you have a harsh tone, chances are they'll feel attacked.
Instead, try to be understanding about where the other person is coming from. Curiosity is different than confrontation. You can ask the same question, but if your tone is curious, the other person will be less likely to feel you are blaming them for something.
4. Avoiding a Conversation
It should go without saying, but speaking and listening to your loved one is essential to good communication. However, if you are tired or distracted, you may fall into a pattern of avoiding conversations. This can cause your loved one to make up stories about you in their head because they don't know what's actually going on — and the stories they make up are usually negative.
In the same respect, when they do all the talking, and you don't really listen to what they're saying, the other person doesn't feel seen or heard.
For effective communication, you need to open up and explore deeper feelings. You should also practice active listening, where you engage with your loved one and seek to understand where they're coming from. Talking and listening don't come naturally to everyone. However, practice makes perfect, and anyone can change.
The most important thing to remember about poor communication is that, with a little effort, things can improve. Even if you are the only one willing to fix communication mistakes, it leads to a dramatic improvement in your relationship. Hopefully, as the other person sees you making an effort, they will strive to improve their communication habits as well.