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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can communication be improved in a relationship?

    Related Topic
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    With a passion to see people move forward and break free from the barriers holding them back, Grant is a highly experienced counsellor with over … View Profile

    A simple tool is to separate emotions and thoughts and state those clearly and respectfully. Here is the tool;

    1. When you . . .
    2. I think . . . .   and
    3. I feel . . . . 

    Bob, when you keep reading the paper while I'm talking to you
    I think you are not interested in me, and
    I feel ignored and rejected.

    You can also add a fourth step

    4. and what I'd like/appreciate is . . . .    e.g  for you to put the paper down when we are talking.

    If your discussions are frequently heated, involve sarcasm, abusive language or actions, or one of you feels threatend or frightend then you need to seek help immediately. Tools like the one above won't help if one of you has a level of fear and is hesitant to engage in communication. See a counsellor.

    I hope this helps, all the best. 

  • I agree with Grant that using “I statements” as decribed above is a healthy way to communicate and less threatning than starting a statment with ‘'YOU…’
    This could also be coupled with using the “ sandwich tecnique” which means putting your more assertive statement / constructive criticism between two positive statements.
    For example:
    I am so pleased you helped me out by cooking tonight. I wonder if after cooking a meal you could also do some cleaning up of the dishes? The meal was delicious, thanks again.

  • I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about … View Profile

    Communication can certainly be improved by using assertive statements in the way Grant and Melanie have described.

    However, it's also really important, when discussing difficult issues, to be sure that you and your partner are really understanding where the other one is coming from - often a lot of communication is ‘lost in translation’ - either we and/or our partner are too upset to really hear what the other is saying. We can feel the urgency of getting our own point across, and find it difficult to slow down enough to listen and check that we understand our partner's perspective.

    If you suspect this may be the case for you - try to do some ‘active listening’ with your partner. This involves saying things like:-

    • what I hear you saying is that you're really upset that I don't give you a hug when you walk in the door after work.
    • It sounds like you're disappointed that I don't help out more on the weekends.
    Hearing how it is for your partner and acknowledging how they are feeling is not the same as having to agree with them. Sometimes when you really listen, you might find out what the issue really is underneath what might seem like an over-reaction to something trivial. For example - not getting a hug when he walks in the door might mean that he doubts his partner still loves him like she used to; if her partner doesn't help out on the weekends she may feel taken for granted - and may even be questioning if she is able to get her needs for nurturing and support met in the relationship.

    Once these hidden layers of meaning are communicated, it becomes possible to have a different conversation about what is most important - to feel that my partner is really there for me, keeps me in mind, that my needs and wants matter to him/her.

    warm wishes, Vivienne Colegrove

  • Dr David Wells

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist

    Dr David Wells is a fully registered Psychologist with the Psychology Board of Australia. David has experience in both private practice and public sector work.Although … View Profile

    Bad communciation is a common issue for couples. The basics are that there should be a speaker AND a listener. Normally there are plenty of speakers. So I would suggest that learning to listen is very important. Active listening involves making sure the conversation is being held at a convenient time, no interuptions, actually paying attention to what the speaker is saying, asking questions to clarify, making sure you have actually heard what was said (see Vivienne's answer). Remember we are not looking for agreement just understanding. Some help from a therapist to teach these skills might be useful.

  • 1


    I am a Melbourne Relationship Counsellor and Family Lawyer who is skilful in helping people get out of the pain of relationship distress and create … View Profile

    Communication involves many things and it's often not only what is said but what is not that creates a problem. It may also help to remember that alot of communication is non-verbal. So checking that you are really present for each other when you go to talk about something can help here. Create a safe space for communication! By this I mean agree to talk when both parties are calm enough to be able to listen and to take in what is being said.
    Another technique that can really help is to start checking with yourself: what meaning do i make of this behaviour? Because you may be wrong! We all make assumptions, some of which are correct and others which are right off beam! So, check in with your partner and say “The story i tell myself is….when this or that happens” Then you can get better at taking responsibility for your own assumptions and projections. For better communication refuse to make assumptions and don't take things personally. It usually is nothing about you but more about what is being evoked in your partner due to his/her past experience.
    Also, be open to looking at what the particular conflict is about. Look at the underlying representation and what meaning it may hold for both of you. Be prepared to look honestly at this and you will be on the way to a rich journey of transformation and growth together! Good luck.

  • Deborah Hill


    Ask yourself this question. Are you the person you really want to be, doing the things you’ve always dreamed of doing?Honestly … ask yourself, who … View Profile

    In reading the question I don't hear you saying the relationship is not a good one, you're just asking for better communication ideas.

    In that case, all the above are good suggestions, learning to listen more closely to each other, using assertive techniques “I” statements, etcetera.

    I believe that having good communication in a relationship with others, begins with having good communication in the most important relationship we'll ever have, with ourselves. 

    You could start with some self reflection. I've included some questions you could start with, or you could make up your own:  How do you see yourself? How do you think others see you? Are you happy? Do you accept yourself as you are? Are you satisfied with where your life's going? Grab and pad and pen, a cup of tea and a favourite quite spot in which to sit, and start writing.

    Be honest with yourself, this is very important.

    If you do this on a regular basis, you'll start to learn more about who you are, what makes you tick, your likes and dislikes etc, and when you're clear about who you are, you start to develop a growing sense of ease and comfort. This will natually lead to better communication with others.

    If you need help with it, contact a counsellor, that's what we do, we help people to discover who they are, gently…

    All the best.

  • Ash Rehn

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Sex Therapist, Social Worker

    Mental Health Medicare Provider of focussed psychological strategies, Counsellor & Therapist specialising in ‘sex addiction’, pornography issues, gay counselling, online therapy. For more information: View Profile

    You might like to explore an approach called ‘Non-Violent Communication’ (NVC) also called ‘Commpassionate Communication’. NVC provides an easy to understand theory about communication that can be applied in intimate relationships as well as collegial relationships and relationships with strangers. You could discuss it with a counsellor / therapist who understands how to use it, or you could learn how to use it through a course.

    I've written more about it here:

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