As you already know, there are some very negative forms of communication. For example:
- Yelling, threats, aggressive words
- The Silent Treatment
- Passive aggression
Yes, even the old-fashioned silent treatment is a form of communication. In other words, you cannot, not communicate. It’s how you’re communicating that really matters. Not surprisingly, negative communication often leads to misunderstandings. It also makes arguments occur more frequently. Therefore, if your goal includes less arguing and more peace at home, it’s important to develop positive communication skills.
What does positive communication look like?
It’s pretty straightforward. Consider the words you use, your timing and tone of voice, and your physical gestures while talking. Even when you’re having a tough conversation, you can make communication choices that will keep things positive. You can get your point across in a compassionate and mindful manner. As a result of practicing positive communication, you will increase the chance that the person you're speaking with will listen with an open mind.
7 Ways to Develop Positive Communication Skills
1. Plan in advance, express gratitude
If there’s something important you need to discuss, treat it that way. Make a plan in advance to communicate. Let your partner know that you appreciate them making time to talk. Set the stage for positive and productive interactions. You make appointments with doctors, dog walkers, personal trainers, and more. Why not schedule your next session of positive communication?
2. Choose mindfulness
The greatest gift you can give someone is your full attention. Be present with your partner and with yourself. By staying in the moment, you can get a better feel for what they are saying. In addition, you remain in touch with your feelings and reactions.
3. Genuinely apologize when necessary
“I’m sorry you feel that way” doesn’t cut it. You want to own up to your behavior. Hold yourself accountable. Say, “I’m sorry” like you mean it and promise to work hard on not letting it happen again.
4. Check your tone and body language
Actions do sometimes speak louder than words! Be aware of your posture, make eye contact, and watch the non-verbal cues you are providing. Don’t multi-task or fiddle with your phone. When you reply, speak slowly, respectfully, and without an attitude.
5. Keep an open mind
Let your partner know that you’re here to listen, learn, and perhaps change your mind. Ask questions, it's a great way to display your willingness to hear them out. Agree with parts of their message if possible. Offer non-verbal cues to assure them that you are fully present.
6. Don’t interrupt!
Allow your partner to speak their mind. You know how annoying it feels to be cut off mid-thought. Interrupting creates arguments about interrupting and ventures off the original topic. There’s nothing positive about that communication style.
7. Seek outcomes, not victories
The goal in positive communication is resolution. You seek to connect or reconnect by communicating honestly AND listening carefully. Keep in mind that this is not a win-lose situation. If one of you loses, you both lose. Positive communication searches for a win-win outcome when you discuss challenging topics.
New couples may find it challenging to develop a communication rhythm. Long term relationships often result in deeply embedded patterns. This is where couples counseling is a useful step towards positive communication. A mediator can identify patterns and help you find solutions.