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4 ways to open up communication with your partner

By Celeste Tholen Rosenlof | Posted - Feb 13th, 2013 @ 11:59am



PROVO — The ability to argue well could increase the chance of happiness in your relationship by tenfold, a new study says.

The study, conducted by Joseph Grenny of Provo-based Vital Smarts, a company that specializes in communication and interpersonal skills, looked at 976 people. It found that couples who argued effectively were 10 times more likely to be happy.

So what are some communication skills that could help you address concerns?

Express genuine love, concern and interest

Steven Stosny, Ph.D., a consultant in family violence in suburban Washington D.C., said that communication techniques can make the other person feel manipulated. Rather than focus on the techniques, he recommends employing genuine compassion and love.

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"Communication in love relationships is a function of emotional connection. When people feel connected, they communicate fine, and when they feel disconnected they communicate poorly, regardless of their choice of words and communication techniques."

If you don't talk it out, you'll act it out

Find a way to discuss your concerns. Rather than wait for your partner to bring them up or wait for the feelings to go away, make it a priority to discuss it.

"It does not get better with age, it doesn't get better with distance, it doesn't get better with silence," Grenny said. "If you aren't discussing it, then it is affecting your relationship, it's affecting your behaviors and your feelings."

Grenny offers some advice for doing so:

  • Ask yourself how your emotions are playing into it. Recognize that they are yours and you created them, whatever the other person did.
  • Start with the facts and discard the judgment. What concrete behaviors are at the core of what I would like to discuss?

Acknowledge that your emotions affect your perspective

Rather than projecting your emotions onto the other person, step back, look at the facts and remember your emotions are your own. They are the result of how you chose to react, Grenny said.


When people feel connected, they communicate fine, and when they feel disconnected they communicate poorly, regardless of their choice of words and communication techniques.

–Steven Stonsy, Ph.D


"Every single unhappy couple describes it the same way: It's the other person's problem," Grenny said. " ‘My emotions are your fault, the way I feel right now is your fault. The way things are between us is your fault.' Until people turn that around, there is absolutely no hope of moving forward."

When you are accountable for your emotions and judgements, you can address the concern sensitively and productively.

So rather than starting with judgement and emotion, start with concrete behaviors and facts.

Create a safe environment

Once you have acknowledged your emotions and judgement, you can move into creating a safe environment. Expressing concern over a person's behavior, rather than passing judgement, helps the other person open up to conversation.

"People can talk about almost anything if they feel safe with you," Grenny said. "Make sure the other person feels that you care about their problems and interests and that you respect them."

When you really care about a person, it will come through. But if you still need a little help to soften the edges, Grenny recommends the following:

  • Let them know you care about them, their problems, and concerns.
  • Let them know you respect them and their opinions.
  • Don't be afraid to smile. Even in a serious conversation, a sincere smile gives your partner emotional information.
  • Invite dialogue. Ask questions.

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