Improve Your Communication Skills

Some married couples lament that their spouses no longer understand them, their motives, intentions or feelings. This common complaint distances mated couples from each other and creates a culture of separateness, aloneness and isolation that sometimes calls to question the foundation of their union. What is healthy communication and how can pairs recreate and sustain their mutually appreciative bond akin to the one that initially cemented their union?

Webster’s Dictionary definition of Communication is: “The imparting of information or getting someone to understand your thoughts and feelings.” For most pairs their initial attraction and interest were mutually fortified by the belief that their love and emotional bond was exceptional and everlasting.

Though the above expectations may have initially been true, with time, the interest, curiosity and fascination with the mate may have naturally subsided. Some pairs may have even begun to doubt their view and feelings about their mate and his/her interest in them.

Sustaining a strong verbal bond requires that one is always curious – not furious with the spouse. Curiosity is other-focused, while fury is self-propelled by the hurt of a perceived discount, dislike or abandonment.

There are three elements in any effective verbal exchange between couples: 1. Transmitting information 2. Expressing needs, feelings and thoughts 3. Anticipating a validation of one’s primacy in the life of the beloved. When all three elements are clearly stated and well-received, interpersonal bonds are strengthened. For example, a partner may angrily describe a work situation in which his/her boss unfairly reprimanded him. When the mate validates the frustration, affirms the spouse’s expertise, adds evidence of the partner’s exhibited competence at home, the wronged mate is likely to feel vindicated, supported and more deeply bonded to the spouse.

Dr. Harville Hendrix created the process of the “Couple’s Dialogue” as a fundamental tool of communication that leads to understanding and compassionate affirmation of another’s needs, wants and hopes. A way to frame this process is to have the partner: 1. Confirm hearing the issue. 2. Express compassion for the spouse’s feelings, and, 3. Validate the mate’s positive nature and essence as exhibited in various ways at home, with a previous boss and others.

The need to be heard, understood and affirmed exists in all human connections, among friends, colleagues, family members, social acquaintances or even with casual service providers. It is even sought in a non-verbal way in our relationships with our pets.

Perhaps respect, validation and affirmation are the three strongest elements of love that bond all humans in all relationships through caring and acceptance.

Improve all your communication skills:

  • Be consistently curious, kind and supportive of your loved one and others.
  • Be a good listener and respond to others the way you would have wanted to be responded to.
  • Tap into your empathy by imagining yourself in the other person’s shoes.
  • Provide the caring and compassion you would have wished to receive had you been in the other person’s position.
  • Use kindness as your managing emotion in dealing with others.


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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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