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How to Improve Communication in your Relationship

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By Dr. Romero Huffstead

Many people report communication difficulties in their relationship which can often lead to intense arguments, isolation, conflicts, or the relationship ending entirely. As a popular quote states, “Ten percent of conflict is due to difference of opinion and ninety percent is due to delivery and tone of voice.” There is no consensus on the author of the quote, but the statement is true in our work with clients. Miscommunication, misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and tone are often at the core of many conflicts. To help with these concerns, the CCI Technique (Communication, Comprehension, Implementation) and other strategies can be extremely helpful. Being on the same page as your partner is about effective communication of individual and collective needs, effective comprehension of those needs, which will help with effective implementation of feedback to meet the needs expressed. Here are some tips to help promote healthier interactions in your relationship:

1) Before engaging in a discussion with your partner, set-up expectations for the conversation. An expectation could be that each person is allowed to express their thoughts and feelings about a particular situation without being interrupted by the other person (unless there are clarifying questions). Whatever you decide, it is important that the expectations are realistic, agreed upon before the start of the conversation, and respected throughout the discussion. It is important for the speaker to be mindful of tone, time, and to avoid insensitive language for effective communication (C). Remember, the goal is helping your partner to fully understand your needs, concerns, and triggers so that any necessary changes can be successfully implemented. If possible, these conversations should be in person (recommended option), on video, or over the phone. Try to avoid these discussions via text. Tone and other vital information is often missed via text.

2) For the listener, it is important to give your partner your full attention and avoid any distractions. Also, maintain your composure when there are impulses to interrupt. This will allow your partner to fully express their needs while also feeling heard. This will also help with processing how to respond in a healthy manner when the roles change and you have an opportunity to speak. Remember, you may not agree with everything being said in the moment, which is okay, the key is being respectful of your partner’s feelings and working towards effective comprehension (C) of the information being shared.

3) After each partner has had an opportunity to express their needs, concerns, and ask clarifying questions, it is important to work together to brainstorm ideas for a resolution. Remember, you are on the same team and a part of being on the same team is working together towards a common goal…a long, supportive, and healthy relationship.

Therefore, take the feedback you have learned to work towards effective implementation (I) of the desired changes.

4) Never assume in a relationship, inform your partner of what you need and work to understand their needs. Also, if you notice that you are having a reaction to something that was said, tell your partner your interpretation and ask if your interpretation is correct. This will give your partner an opportunity to clarify the true intent or meaning of their comments. Many conflicts occur due to misinterpretations.

5) For situational conflicts, implement the FRDM (Freeze, Rationalize, Decide, Move/Unfreeze) Technique. FRDM is helpful to prevent impulsive reactions that often occur when someone is overwhelmed, angry, or irritable. Simply freeze for a moment to recognize how you are feeling in the moment and assess the situation, rationalize what is the best course of action (whether or not you are in a position to have the conversation in the moment; if coping strategies are needed; how you want to communicate; should you ask clarifying questions, etc). After you have rationalized, decide on how you would like to proceed and then move (unfreeze) forward with your plan. Be open with your partner about your decision.

6) Be aware of your coping strategies. Before having a difficult conversation or when you are feeling overwhelmed in general: take deep breaths (this is your body’s natural reset button), go for a walk, go for a drive, exercise, take some time to reflect, listen to music, or utilize any other strategy that is helpful in the moment. This will help mitigate anger and irritability while improving communication.

7) Seek help if needed. Couples therapy is a great tool to help facilitate positive changes in your relationship. Individual therapy is also a great tool to better understanding your individual needs in the relationship and what underlying factors are contributing to any presenting concerns.


“Remember, you are on the same team and a part of being on the same team is working together towards a common goal…a long, supportive, and healthy relationship.”

Dr. Romero Huffstead

Our therapists are here to help you overcome relationship challenges of all kinds.

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