In any relationship, there needs to be a good structure of trust, communication, and respect. It’s common for two people to hit some bumps at some point and struggle with the communication piece, so we’ve put together some tips and information on how to have better conversations with your partner.
Even for those who aren’t struggling or don’t have any current issues, it’s always good to think about how to have better conversations with your partner because you can head off issues or miscommunication further down the road. Read our tips, and find something new to practice or work on in your relationship.
Dig into conversation starters and more!
Are you looking for ways to keep your relationship fresh and exciting? Adventures From Scratch: Date Edition contains over 50+ date ideas, conversation starters, and other interactive elements. Each dating suggestion is hidden beneath a coating you can scratch off together. Explore the world around you and find new topics to discuss as you make your way through this incredible interactive book for couples. Pick up your copy today!
What is Effective Communication?
Effective communication is defined as the process of exchanging thoughts, opinions, ideas, and information so that the message is received and clearly understood. Both parties in the conversation should feel satisfied with the outcome.
Communication can happen verbally, through written forms, or by body language. You can be conversing with a brand new contact at your workplace, your best friend, or the neighbor kid down the street selling lemonade and your methods may vary a bit. At the end of the day, the communication skills are still the same.
Effective communication must include the five C’s: clear, correct, complete, concise, and compassionate. Focus on making sure your message incorporates all five of those and you will find success when speaking to others. Common mistakes are spending too much time communicating your point, and by overtalking, people tend to get confused and lose focus.
Like any skill, effective communication takes practice. Keep these five C’s in mind when you sit down to have your next discussion, and see if there’s one that you think you’re lacking in and work on improving it.
Why work on communication?
Communication is essential to all human relationships, from friendships to family to colleagues to strangers. But the person who you choose to be in a relationship with might be the most important person that you communicate with on a regular basis. You’ll have to make huge life decisions about money, jobs, real estate, family, and more. Start with the small stuff and make sure to carve out the time to build a strong foundation.
Having healthy and strong relationships across the board is important for your mental health and overall wellness. Continue the work to improve how you communicate with your partner and others because the work is never done. Each person you meet will present new challenges.
How to Have Better Conversations With Your Partner
Whether you’re having deep conversations or just catching up on the latest happenings in your life, we’ve pulled together a few tips to help you be a stronger and more effective communicator. Some of these might seem like common sense, but it’s important to be self-aware and diligent about checking in on how you’re speaking to others. The better you are at communicating, the better your partner will become as well.
Bring up new conversation topics.
If your conversations are the same every day and they are starting to feel boring, change it up. Ask some fun questions and throw your partner off a little and make them think. Ask them to imagine it is 10 years in the future, where do they see themselves? Ask them to describe their perfect day. That’s a fun way to gather intel about fun ways you can surprise them for their birthdays or random dates in the future.
You can also think of some fun stories or things that you’ve experienced that you’ve never shared with them. Open up about something new and get deeper with your partner during conversations to help peel back some layers and have more meaningful conversations.
Change your scenery and routine.
Just like we mentioned with the topics of conversation above, it also gets stale if you are always catching up at the same time in the same place. Do you find yourselves doing a quick after-work catch-up while making dinner before you retreat to the living room to watch TV? Do something different.
Plan to take a walk before you leave for work in the morning to talk about your upcoming days and anything on your mind. Eat dinner outside and pour a glass of wine and some dessert to make it a longer meal where you can spend more time chatting. Just a change in surroundings can give your talks a new vibe and help boost creativity and attention.
Put away distractions.
Good conversations cannot happen while people are focusing on multiple devices or screens. So often, we are mindlessly scrolling through our phones while in the middle of a conversation with a real person in front of us. It’s become such a bad habit for many of us. Be aware of this and work to fight it.
If you are sitting down to chat with your partner, whether you’re at home or out somewhere, put your phone away from you. Try to find a spot where you aren’t able to see it light up or hear notifications so you can focus on your partner. It’s important that you both are on the same page about it.
If there are times when you’re doing things together and both scrolling through social media or emails, that’s fine. But it is super frustrating when anyone is looking at their phone while you’re trying to tell them something. Don’t be that person.
Ask open-ended questions.
Short questions that only look for yes or no answers aren’t ideal to keep a conversation flowing. Stick to open-ended questions to encourage your partner to give more information and elaborate more on their answers.
Instead of starting with “did you have a good day,” you can ask them to describe their day or share the highs and lows. Ask about specific things that you know your partner had going on that day to show your interest.
Be clear about your feelings.
Self-disclosure is the process of passing on information about yourself to another person. This can be intentional and unintentional. If you’re in a relationship with someone, you need to make sure you are sharing your thoughts and feelings with that person. Honesty and trust are important and part of that is being open and sharing things that they need to know.
Obviously, you can’t disclose every bit of information about yourself on a first date or even in your first years together, but you should always be open and willing to share. Bottling up feelings and keeping them to yourself is never the best way to handle your anger. It’s important to share the feelings in a calm way and talk through them.
The more direct and upfront you are, the less that someone will be surprised in a negative way. Share your feelings and your thoughts, just make sure that you consider the time, place, and tone that you are having that conversation. It’s OK to take a few minutes to cool down when needed.
Practice active listening.
Any time you are chatting with a loved one, you should be focused on what they are saying. That seems like common sense, but active listening takes some work and focus. You need to be prepared to listen and be observant about non-verbal messages as well. When you’re practicing active listening, you’re processing the information you’re being told and you’re providing feedback.
Show your partner that you are listening and paying attention. Face them while they talk and acknowledge them with nods and eye contact. Provide thoughtful feedback and responses when they are done. It’s really simple as long as you are focusing on what they are saying.
To put it simply, before you start a conversation with your partner, ask yourself if you’re prepared and ready to try and understand what they are saying and listen intently.
Maintain eye contact.
Intimate conversations with your significant other should always include plenty of eye contact. Imagine you’re sitting at a fancy dinner and you’re across the table from one another, you don’t want to be talking to someone who is constantly looking around the room like they are searching for someone else. You want to talk to someone who is looking at you. It’s a clear sign of attention.
Think about this idea when you aren’t sitting at a nice restaurant, but when you are at home chatting with one another. Make sure to look at your partner. It will help you listen and have better focus.
Check in with your body language.
Similar to eye contact, you can say a lot with your hands, body, and facial expressions when you’re talking to someone. It’s important to face the person because it shows them that you are giving them your attention.
Small gestures can say a lot without words. For example, an eye roll can show annoyance at the topic and disagreement. Reaching out to hold someone’s hand while they are talking can show an extra level of love and support. Small gestures while you’re talking can say a lot as well. If you’re upset, you might cross your arms or move your hands around a lot more. Just be aware of the message you’re sending with your body language and read your partner’s as well to get the full context.
Don’t shy away from difficult conversations.
Connecting in any relationship on a deeper level will require having some tough conversations. Don’t avoid those. If there are issues between the two of you or things that you need to make them aware of, just make sure you pick a time where you can both sit down and focus in a calm manner to talk through them.
In the heat of the moment, sometimes an argument can become unproductive. Take a step back, gather your thoughts, and re-approach once you’ve both had a little time to cool off. The harder they are, the more you’ll grow together, so they are extremely important.
It’s important to make sure that both parties are as prepared and ready for a tough conversation. You don’t want to just spring a topic on your partner that requires some thought and consideration, because you don’t know what kind of mindset they are in to begin with. Maybe they’ve had a horrible day or just got some incredible news they want to share. Be open and honest and considerate and you’ll be setting yourself up for the most success.
Try to see things from their point of view.
We touched on this a bit in the active listening point, but trying to understand and anticipate how your partner feels about something can help you have a meaningful conversation. Asking questions can help you get through any confusion.
Each human has unique life experiences, so it’s almost impossible to completely understand someone else’s perspective. Working to understand someone else’s point of view can help you learn more about how their mind works and how they might respond to things in the future.
By actively listening and asking questions, you’ll be able to learn more about your partner’s thought processes and how they reach conclusions about parts of their life. If you put the work into this, you’ll receive this in return from your partner.
Speak like you want to be spoken to.
Remember the golden rule—treat others the way you want to be treated. This applies when you are talking to your partner in any situation. If you hate being talked down to or corrected all the time, make sure you aren’t doing that to the people in your life. Take stock of the communication styles that rub you the wrong way or make you uncomfortable and then make sure that you aren’t exhibiting any of those behaviors when you are speaking with someone.
Obviously, you won’t always have the exact same communication preferences and styles as others, but it’s a great place to start. You want others to treat you with respect, so make sure you’re leading with kindness and respect anytime you’re having a conversation with someone else and you’re likely to be well-received and get your point across in a productive manner.
Tools to Help Start Meaningful Conversations
So, what if you’d tried all the tips above and you’re still running into issues? Maybe you find some days where you aren’t sure what to talk about or you feel like you’re having the same conversation over and over and not getting anywhere. It might be time to dig a little deeper and try one of these tools. Whether you need a relationship coach or you just need a different way to understand each other, these can help give you a little jump start.
When you’re struggling with topics to talk about or you feel like you’re just in a rut and need to add some fun to your dinner dates, take advantage of the many lists and games to kickstart conversations.
These can be questions that you might have asked on the first date, but haven’t followed up on in a while. You can also dig a little deeper and learn more about the other person by asking some tough questions.
Here are ideas to get you started:
- What is your most unique or treasured family tradition?
- How have you changed as a person since high school?
- What activities from childhood do you wish you could do as an adult?
- Describe in full detail your perfect day.
- What events in your life have challenged you the most?
- If there was a movie about your life, what would it cover? One specific timeframe or a full retrospective? Who would be in the movie? What would your soundtrack be?
- What are your biggest fears? Have you ever tried to get over them?
- How do you see yourself in retirement?
Companies, like Table Topics, create lots of cards and prompts to help as well. Buy one for your dinner table and pull a new card each week to help spark new conversations.
Understanding the love languages and where you and your partner fall on that scale can be extremely beneficial to your communication work. If you’ve never heard of this before, you can take a quiz to find out what your love language is.
To briefly summarize, there are five love languages and they signify how each partner best receives and gives love. Most people have a preference for one or two of the styles and by knowing that, your partner can make sure that you are feeling the love in the way that you prefer.
The five languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, gift-giving, acts of service, and physical touch. You don’t necessarily need to align on which languages you both are, but it’s good if you are aware and can shift some of your communication styles to meet them on their level as much as possible. It can help you both understand each other in a new way.
There are many books and podcasts available from relationship experts that can give you some new tools and ideas to try. We mentioned the book, the Five Love Languages, already, but there are many others to choose from. You can find them geared towards people in varying phases of long-term relationships—dating, engaged, newly married, married for years, recently divorced and dating, widowed, etc.
Podcasts are another popular information tool now and they are totally free to listen to. Many celebrities and public figures host podcasts where they interview experts of all kinds. You might hear some interesting updates from an LCSW (licensed clinical social worker) on family dynamics and navigating tough social situations. Others chat with couples and have them share struggles they have faced in their relationships, which can give you some insight. Maybe you’ll even find people you can relate to and hear how they worked through communication issues.
Therapy is always a great option for couples. In the past, there has been a stigma around therapy, but it is an incredible tool. Even if you aren’t having any issues with your partner, therapy gives you a safe place to openly communicate and work through any challenges you might anticipate and just learn more about each other.
When you’re researching options, you might see clinical psychologists appear in your search. These are professionals who do research and contribute both clinically and academically to the field of psychology. All psychologists can be called therapists, but that is more of an umbrella term and not all therapists are psychologists.
A family therapist is someone who is trained and often licensed to provide treatments for people. You will have an initial session where they will learn about you and your concerns or your goals. You’ll work with them to come up with a long-term plan with your partner to accomplish those goals or work through any issues. You may see them weekly, monthly, or even less often. You can find therapists in your area online or ask friends and family if they have any recommendations.
When you bring up the idea of therapy to your partner, make sure you are transparent about your reason for wanting to go. It’s important that they don’t feel defensive and understand that your intention is learning how to strengthen your bond as a couple and improve your communication.
Enjoy the process with your partner!
If you’re looking for some fun date ideas to go with all these incredible new conversation skills, check out our list of fun and creative ideas to try out with your partner.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you want to have better conversations with your partner, assess your communication style, and see where you can improve. Active listening is extremely important and takes some practice.
Whether you’re newly dating or married for years, sometimes you need new ideas for date night. Try Adventures from Scratch Book: Date Edition for scratch-off date ideas and conversation prompts.