How to Communicate Better with Loved Ones: 5 Key Steps

Nov 11, 2020

By Jessica Edwards, CPC

With many of us keeping indoors these days with roommates, friends, and family members due to the coronavirus pandemic, the need for good communication couldn’t be clearer. This crucial skill may come less naturally to some than others. But global pandemics aside, a fundamental aspect of loving someone is communicating with them in a way that makes them feel like you care about them–and now more than ever, it’s important to have good conversations. So what’s the secret to effectively and productively communicating your needs? 

First, let’s debrief why good communication with your loved ones is so necessary:

  • Building trust and connection: Good conversations help to build trust and deepen our sense of intimacy in our relationships with our loved ones. The willingness to open up to one another and feel heard and not judged builds trust in relationships, and can help you rely on your loved one’s support.
  • Promoting understanding: By having meaningful conversations, you and your loved ones can start to learn more about each other in a way that deepens your understanding of each other. This can lead to more intimacy, behavior change, and consideration.
  • Strengthening your relationship: Effective communication can help you feel closer, heard, and understood. Within a strong relationship, you can rely on your partner for a safe space to be yourself and share your joys, sorrows and values.

So how can you communicate better with your loved ones?

1. Consider the time and place

You need to meet your conversational partner where they are, especially when you’re just starting to deepen your conversations. The checkout line at the grocery store, for example, might not be the best time to discuss missing high school graduation due to COVID-19 with your child. Nor is the dinner table likely the place to ask your partner how they’re feeling about that big presentation they have to give tomorrow while your toddler is banging their spoon against the highchair. Take each situation, timing, and surroundings into account as you practice having meaningful conversations. Times and places where you won’t be too interrupted or rushed are often best when it comes to having these deeper conversations. 

2. Ask open-ended questions 

How do you start the conversation, and most importantly, how do you keep it going? The key is to be sure you are asking open-ended questions. When you ask closed questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no,” this tends  to shut down the conversation. A better way to keep the discussion going as well as help draw more out of your conversation partner is to ask open-ended questions: For example, “How can we still make graduation special for you even if you can’t be with your classmates?” Or, “What concerns do you have about your presentation tomorrow?”

 3. Really listen 

We’ve all been in conversations where we can tell the other person isn’t really listening or trying to understand what we’re saying. In order to avoid this , try to keep these active listening tips in mind.

  • Ask and then be quiet. Only ask one question at a time and be focused on your conversation partner’s answer. Listen with the intent to understand, not to reply.
  • Think of active listening as going with the flow of the conversation. You’ll likely get distracted by your own thoughts or preparing your  reply, but try to practice mindfulness and let those thoughts come and go so you can stay focused on what your partner is saying.
  • Try practicing reflection to confirm that you’re interpreting what you heard correctly. Use phrases like, “It sounds like you’ve really prepared for your presentation tomorrow, but are still pretty nervous. Am I hearing that correctly?” This helps your conversation partner feel heard, and gives them the opportunity to correct you if you’ve made an incorrect assumption.

4. Don’t equate their experiences with yours

One of the fastest ways to shut down a conversation is to enter into a comparison of feelings or experiences. This can lead your loved one to not feel heard and can ultimately create a lack of connection or future communication. 

It’s helpful to remind ourselves that every experience we encounter is unique to us. We all have our own thoughts and feelings about what’s happening in our lives or the world, and while sharing a relatable experience might feel like a way to connect with the person you’re speaking to, it can sometimes invalidate their experience. Keep in mind when trying to communicate with your loved ones that it’s not about you, but about listening to them and staying curious.

5. Practice presence

Finally, one of the simplest ways to communicate well with your loved ones is the gift of your presence. This means being fully available to enter into a conversation with them, free of distractions. To enhance communication with those who are important to you, be sure to turn the TV off, stay off your phone, and eliminate any other distractions. 

Good communication may seem like common sense, but it’s trickier than it looks, and poor communication can create a wall between you and your conversation partner. These tips can help you chat more thoughtfully with those you care about, and create more meaningful connections in your life. 

To watch the recorded version of these tips, click on the video below.

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DISCLAIMER: The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jessica Edwards, CPC is a professional mental health coach for Lyra Health. She spent over 12 years honing her communication, leadership and coaching talents in the advertising industry before branching out on her own to help individuals align more of who they are with the work they want to do every day.