5 Questions To Ask Your Partner For Better Communication In Your Relationship
Although many people know that communication is paramount in every relationship, that doesn't mean that all of us excel at it. In fact, some people think they're amazing communicators, while their friends and family may differ. And, there are those who are stunningly proficient in their ability to communicate, but don't see themselves as such. It's also important to remember that talking doesn't necessarily mean you're communicating.
"A good communicator is someone who knows what they want, is able to articulate that, and listens well for any miscommunications, misunderstandings, or need for clarification," New York–based relationship and etiquette expert of Relationship Advice Forum, April Masini, tells Bustle. "When all people in the communication transaction understand what’s being said and expected, there has been effective communication."
But while we know communication is important and we might even be able to recognize it when we see it, it doesn't mean it's still not difficult for some of us. Because of this, having a set of questions that you and your partner can ask each other is a good way to get a dialogue going and help you both communicate your feelings, fears, concerns — of all it — effectively. Here are five questions to ask your partner when you've been having trouble communicating.
1. "What Can I Do To Help?"
"When your partner is in trouble there’s a tendency to try and fix things," says Masini. "It’s hard to see someone in pain, and most people scurry around to attempt to cure any problems at hand. Even though you have good intentions, your actions can backfire. Your actions may make your partner feel that you’re not paying attention and just trying to quiet them. A much more effective thing to do is to simply ask, 'What can I do to help?' This shows you’re really listening, paying attention, and wanting to hear what your partner wants."
Instead of trying to fix the problem by doing something that your partner might see as demeaning or a means to quiet them, ask what you can do to help. It will show that you don't just care, but that you're invested enough in their well-being to get involved and help them in a hands-on, proactive way. This approach is far more effectively communicative than any other approach.
2. "Am I Understanding You Correctly?"
As long as you're tone-free when you ask this — so it doesn't feel condescending — it won't just help you and your partner communicate better, but help you understand each other as clearly as possible.
"So many relationship conflicts are a result of miscommunication," says Masini. "When things build into a heated and protracted argument, it’s easy to back into your own corners and become staunch in your opinions. Better communication skills require easing up and letting go of rigidity. Simply asking, 'Am I understanding you correctly? I think you’re saying…. is that right?' shows that you’re not taking sides — you’re trying to understand and communicate."
3. "What Would You Like To See Happen?"
Naturally, conflict deserves resolution. If you try to be happy in a relationship with conflict that isn't resolved, it's not going to happen. There's also the fact that every issue or problem should have a short-lived shelf life and a plan to wrap up that issue or problem, so both you and your partner can move past it. You can't evolve and grow without an idea of how you want it to end whatever is plaguing the situation.
"Conflict in relationships happens when there’s a hidden motive and the conversation and conflict don’t focus on the bottom line," says Masini. "When you remind each other what the bottom line is — or better yet, ask what the bottom line your partner wants to see is — you’re more likely to have better communication with less conflict... This question guides you both back on track."
4. "Would You Like To Know What I Want?"
Because every healthy relationship is a give and take and is made up of two halves, in order to communicate better, your wants and hopes for the outcome are just as important as your partner's wants and hopes. Especially since you want to make sure you're both on the same page.
"If you feel that this is a one-way argument, and you’re starting to get steamed, [then] try to ask before you blow your top, 'Would you like to know what I want?' Don’t challenge, and do ask genuinely," says Masini. "Your partner may be so invested in their point of view that they didn’t even think you might want something completely different. This question reminds them that you have a slightly — or majorly — different point of view, and you’d like to share it with them. This opens up communication and is a great tool."
5. "Would You Like To Talk About It Again?"
Very few things can be resolved quickly. Whether that thing is something bad, like an argument between you and your partner, or something good, like trying to decide what home to buy, each requires some discussing, hashing and rehashing, and communication. In both scenarios, there should be a follow-up discussion, as a means to confirm that you're either both moving in the same direction or that maybe it's time to regroup and go over it again.
"Good communicators follow up to make sure you’re both on the same page after the initial communication has ended, or as a way to follow up to see if either of you have had any new thoughts since connecting," says Masini. "We all know what it’s like to be on the same page with someone, sleep on it, and wake up with a different thought. Following up is a way to keep the communication over time."
Communication isn't easy for everyone. Sometimes we just need a little nudge and a jumping off point, then voila! We're suddenly communication experts — or at least that's the ultimate goal.