Good communication isn't easy

Communication issues are one of the most common problems faced by couples. It’s no surprise that the inability to converse effectively with your partner leads to an unhappy relationship, but why is it so hard?
We talk to people everyday, be it at work, or at dinner with friends, even with our local grocer, so you’d think we’d have enough practice at it by now! What is it about discussing who’s going to do the dishes, or why we just don’t feel like ‘it’, that creates so much tension.
Well, the reason isn’t complicated, it’s not some deep dark unresolved issue that’s festering away…it’s simply that most of us just aren’t that great at listening. Too often, when we argue, or have a heated ‘discussion’, our main focus is to convey our own thoughts and feelings, while paying little attention to those of  our loved one’s.
Sometimes, the only reason we stop talking is to regather our thoughts, so we’re prepared to insert our opinion again at the next pause. Take note: this is NOT an effective problem solving strategy. You may make up afterwards simply because you’re both exhausted and frankly can’t be bothered, meanwhile, the unresolved issue will wait for the next opportunity to be drawn to the surface.
So how do we become better listeners? Well firstly, and this may sound obvious, but try talking less. After making a statement, stop and listen, with the intent of really understanding what your partner has to say. Respond to them as they are speaking, by nodding or saying things like ‘yes I understand’, so they know you are paying attention.
Secondly, suspend judgement. Often we respond with our heart not with our head. Take a moment to really digest what has been said, and then speak your view. Don’t embark on an argument with your mind already made up. Try being open to the possibility of changing your own view.
Finally, to help you comprehend the other party’s perspective, summarise their thoughts and feelings, and repeat them back to them. Not only will you understand your partner’s view better, but, more importantly, you will show them that you’re listening and that you value their perspective, which, at the end of the day is all that any of us really wants.


  1. Bradbury, T.N., Fincham, F.D., & Beach, S.R.H. (2000). Research on the nature and determinants of marital satisfaction: A decade in review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62
    (4), 964–980. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00964.x.
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