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Can We Talk? Making Couple Communication Effective

You cannot not communicate. It’s a rule. It’s a law of the universe. It’s a reality.

Arguing couple

We are always communicating, not only by the words we say, but by the looks we give, the tone of our voice, the way we turn our bodies, and even by the words we don’t say. If you bite your tongue and refuse to criticize, you are saying, “I care about your feelings more than about being right.” If you are mad and decide not to speak to your partner, you are communicating with your silence: “I don’t want to be around you right now.”

Tips on Effective Versus Ineffective Communication

Since we are always communicating, then how do we make our communication as couples most effective? Some tips to remember about effective versus ineffective communication can be useful:

  • Effective communication resolves the problem. Ineffective communication aggravates the problem.
  • Effective communication builds personal esteem. Ineffective communication diminishes personal esteem.
  • Effective communication enhances the relationship. Ineffective communication damages the relationship.
  • Effective communication relays important messages. Ineffective communication obstructs important messages.
  • Effective communication reinforces mutual respect. Ineffective communication limits trust and respect.
  • Effective communication bonds a couple together. Ineffective communication distances a couple from each other.

Key Questions to Ask in Couple Communication

The key question to begin with as you interact with a partner is not, “Am I communicating?” You are always communicating. The key question is: “Am I communicating effectively or ineffectively?”

Just ask yourself the following when you reflect on your couple communication:

  • Is the problem getting resolved or aggravated?
  • Is each of us feeling better or worse about ourselves?
  • Is our relationship being strengthened or damaged?
  • Is an important message being understood or misunderstood?
  • Is our interaction helping or hurting our trust of each other?
  • Do we feel closer or farther apart?

Reach for Closeness and Mutual Respect

During the time of year when couples approach Valentine’s Day (February 14), it is common to reflect on our couple relationships. Communication is an important ingredient that affects the quality of couple relationships. These questions can help you to assess whether your communication with each other is achieving what you’d like to achieve: caring, closeness and mutual respect.

            For further information on a variety of aspects of strengthening couple relationships, access the educational publications at the National Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Network online by visiting:

Source: Sean Brotherson, Extension Family Science Specialist, North Dakota State University, (701) 231-6143,

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