Most couples seeking counseling state that they are having “communication problems.” Communication is a crucial component of any relationship, and there are many ways for it to go off track. Every culture, family, and individual has their own style and rules for communication. The more intimate our relationship with another person is, the more important good communication becomes.
“But we talk all the time!”
Talking frequently and communicating well are two different things. You and your partner may talk often about day-to-day issues or events. You may even talk about things that you disagree about. You also may have developed ways to talk at each other without really listening. Tuning out or just giving the impression that you are listening, when you are actually daydreaming about something else. Talking is not the same as good communication. Communication goes beyond words and encompasses actions, nonverbal expression, and connection.
What is the relationship between communication and connection?
Communication is happening all the time, whether it is conscious or not. You are communicating when you speak, and you are also communicating when you are silent. Banging the cabinets as you unload the dishwasher that your spouse forgot to unload again is communication (I’m frustrated with you). Turning on the TV or checking Facebook when your partner is talking is communication (I don’t want to talk or you are not important). Putting down your phone, making eye contact, and smiling is communication (I’m here, I’m listening). Actions and nonverbal signs are just important as words.
It is possible to communicate well but have poor connection with your partner. While communication can be involuntary, connection takes conscious thought and intention. Connection is emotional alignment with your partner. Connection is not just communicating well, but actually wanting to understand and feel close to your partner. Remember how it felt when you were first falling love? Everything the other person said was interesting. It didn’t matter if you were using good communication techniques. Connection was more important. If you can reestablish your connection, your communication will improve.
Techniques to Improve Connection and Communication
- Timing. We are not always in the right mood or the right place to communicate well and connect. When one of you is stressed out, overwhelmed, or emotionally exhausted, you are more likely to misread each other, send negative nonverbal signals, and slip into old bad habits. When an important conversation needs to take place, make sure both of you are feeling calm and focused.
- Attention. Make a commitment to give more attention to your partner and your relationship. This means giving your full attention, free from any distractions, if only for a few minutes each day. It also means paying attention to the things that the other person is doing well and saying thank you. Appreciation and attention are powerful ways to build connection.
- Touch. It is difficult to be angry at someone when you are in close physical contact. Loving touch improves our connection with our partners and leads to better communication. In practice, this may mean holding hands, or simply sitting so that your legs are touching while having a conversation. When things start to get tense, you will likely pull away from each other. This brings your attention to the fact that things are getting tense, and a conscious decision can be made about how to proceed.
Looking for more help improving your connection or communication with your partner? Contact the therapists at Sun Point Wellness.