Three steps towards creating healthy relationships

Communicating effectively and constructively is a vital skill when repairing or improving your relationship with your partner. It may be that you want to put things back on a loving and supportive footing, or that you have separated but need to continue to work together to look after your children.
Practicing these three steps, even if your partner is not playing ball at the moment, gives you the best chance of improving things.

Step 1: Listen to your partner

Listening is a whole body activity! You listen to your partner’s words with your ears of course, but you also listen with your body to the tone of the words, what is this conveying? How does it make you feel? And your eyes notice the body language – what does this tell you?

Listen to understand, not to respond. A good exercise is to feed back to your partner what you have heard and check that you have it right. When they are satisfied that you have you can consider your response.

This is the key skill in creating a constructive dialogue. Only when your partner feels heard will they be able to relax and listen to you, and this will greatly increase the likelihood that they will consider your point of view and be open to working towards an agreement.

Step 2: Listen to yourself

How have you responded emotionally to what you have heard? How are you feeling?  Has the message affected you and if so why? Is your internal response something you need to explore in greater depth or deal with elsewhere before you can respond constructively?

When you are affected emotionally by your partner this will be communicated in the tone and body language of your reply and influence the response you evoke: if you are emotional you will trigger an emotional response and this may lead to you both lapsing into old, destructive ways. Some coaching or therapy will help you to deal with your feelings so you can stay calm and mature.

Step 3: Respond

Pause and consider what you are going to say. Is it true to your values or is it an ego response wanting to react to some pain that you have felt? Does it need to be said? Is it kind and constructive? Will it evoke a defensive response? How can you phrase it so it will be heard as clearly as possible?

Practice using language that will encourage a mature and considered response from your partner.
Easy? No, but by practicing each step you can come closer to that ideal: true communication. The skills you will be developing will be invaluable life skills that will increase your understanding of yourself, teach you how to support yourself so that you can be more self-reliant, stable and confident, teach you emotional intelligence, and teach you how to talk in a style that encourages an authentic and mutually respectful dialogue. It will teach you how to create productive and healthier relationships.

Clare Walters, Relationship Coach,
Brighter Future