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Communication 101: Building a healthy foundation
By Jennine E. Estes   View more articles by this author
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August 14

Ask any happy couple about what keeps the relationship alive and you will most likely hear them say it thrives on healthy communication. Healthy and effective communication can create a shelter for couples where it is easy to open up, safe to be vulnerable, and a shelter to be understood. This is the foundation for a strong relationship built on connecting. Yet some couples have a difficult time in creating this dynamic.

The following is a list of key factors you and your partner can begin today to establish a thriving and strong foundation through communicating.  Sit down with your partner and go through each one of these steps….I dare you!
1. Safety Zone:  Out of all communication tips, this is the MOST significant in all communication skills. The main message to send to one another is that you two are the safe zones, the sanctuaries for one another. Make sure your reactions and responses send a message that you are there to comfort and respond in a way that they need. To be available, dependable, and reliable are ways of being the safe zone. 
2. The 3 ingredients: Communication consists of 3 ingredients: a sender, receiver, and a message. The message can get misconstrued in either the sending or the receiving. The sender may have great intentions, yet the form in which the message comes out may be in another “language” and difficult to be translated. Or the receiver may only hear what they want to hear. Either way, your job is to find how to send and receive the clearest message possible (on your end). Ask yourself, “What is my goal as I present this information?” Or as a receiver of a message, ask yourself, “What message is my partner trying to send me?”   
3. Avoid critical and absolute words: Critical words are words which show judgment.--"Why did you…?" or "You shouldn‘t have done it that way." or "You will never…" or "You always…" These critical and absolute words form roadblocks to healthy communication.  Keep track of how you speak to your partner. 
4. Avoid Pointing Language:  Pointing at what your partner should or shouldn’t have done isn’t going to help the situation. If you like challenges….try to address conflict without saying “you.” Most couples fall into the downward spiral of pointing at each other’s mistakes and fall into the never ending pattern of pointing. This resolves nothing. Stop it! Take responsibility for you and share how you feel.
5. No games….Just straight up.  Your partner can’t read your mind, so don’t force them to try.  Avoid playing the game of hinting or beating around the bush with "mind games"--they may seem cute and fun, but your partner might not always get it. Your partner WILL fail the game if they don’t know about the test. Instead, give them the opportunity to meet your needs and ask for what you need in a clear message. Once they learn how to meet your need, the less you will have to ask. Let’s face it…they might just need a little training. 
6. De-stress and Calm your Nerves:  Be considerate of your partner and avoid taking out your frustrations on them.  Try journaling, taking a walk, or talking yourself through your thoughts to clear your head.  Diffusion of small problems allows you to be more attentive and less reactive to your partner.
7. Teamwork Concept:  Realize that in a healthy, affectionate relationship no one "wins" an argument; meet your partner halfway.  Attempt to resolve conflict as a team through compromising and understanding one another.
8. Validate, Validate, Validate: Validate your partner’s feelings by attempting to understand how they feel.  Show your partner that you are an attentive listener who is making the effort to ensure they are being understood with empathy.
9. Catch-up Time: Most couples overlook nurturing the relationship and get caught in the ups and downs of life. Put aside 30 minutes a day, preferably after you wind down from work, and share your day with one another. This debriefing time is great to emotionally connect, share your day, and catch-up on life. Turn off the television, cell phones, Twitter, Facebook, and anything else that may distract you! The main goal is to hear and to be heard. MAKE THIS HABITUAL!
10.  Message of “I am here.” When facing conflict, reassure your partner that you aren’t leaving or mentally shutting them out. The more you reassure them you are available and that you care, the more it influences how they respond to you. Their tone of voice and volume will automatically decrease when there is comfort. Give it a try and see how it works.  



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