How to finetune your communication skills to increase the intimacy in your relationship

Category: Better Relationships | Author and Publisher: Elly Prior | First published: 23-09-2010 | Modified: 08-05-2018

My site is full of answers to questions about your relationship problems. I'm a qualified and experienced couple or marriage counsellor, and I've published articles with answers to a wide variety of questions about:

... and many, many more.

Here we're starting with the basics of any relationship: answers to relationship questions about how to best communicate with your partner.

If by any chance you landed on the wrong page and you were looking for fun relationship questions, hop over there now.

Positive Communication Kit for Happy Couples

How to bridge the distance between the two of you

Get your communication right and you make a great start to a happy and fulfilled relationship or marriage. That doesn't mean you're not going to have any relationship issues or marital problems along the way (sorry!)... but it does mean you'll be able to handle them better.

You'll also find answers and help with specific problems on my page about common relationship problems. But do come back to this page though... this series of articles is the most important for improving your communication!

Now, about communication and reducing stress, disappointments and arguments...

I want to be upfront with you - I may earn a commission from Better Help. You pay the same fee, regardless. 

Not as close (anymore) as you would like?

Effective communication is at the heart of any relationship - personal, professional and business. There's nothing quite so attractive in a person than truly attending and listening.

Ineffective listening can spoil what you're trying to achieve in terms of building a positive, rewarding, co-operative and loving relationship.

In this article, I'll let you in on the secrets of advanced listening skills. You'll learn how to avoid major arguments and reduce stress in your relationship. You'll improve your decision making, learn to be more empathic and thereby set yourself up to increase the intimacy between the two of you. We're aiming for you both to feel close once more.

Let me start with explaining what 'advanced listening' really is...

What are active or advanced listening skills?

Couple - closely listening and attending

Active listening means using a set of specific communication skills that help you to have a really good conversation, whilst you focus completely on the other person.

You want to hear, see, feel and understand as much as possible of what the other person is trying to say.

You cannot not communicate - without uttering a sound your body ‘leaks’ information through non-verbal communication, which is as important as the spoken word.

Answers to questions about relationships draw people to my site by the thousands every day - all searching for the magic formula. But the only really magic formula is the knowledge about how to become a good listener.

Being genuinely interested in the other person. Being really listened to in itself can be very reassuring and calming. Ineffective listening on the other hand is likely to inflame any conflict.

Here is one of the best ways to start...

Two women talking and listening

Top tips on timing a difficult conversation

If you want to 'tackle' your partner about something and are planning to have a conversation, make sure that you...

  • time it right
  • deal with potential interruptions in advance
  • avoid distraction from mobile devices or other screens
  • decide that everything you're going to hear and observe is feedback and you won't argue about it
  • set a date and time for a follow-up - you don't have to do it all in one sitting

You're more likely to be able to achieve a positive outcome if you...

  • tell your partner in advance that you want to talk about something
  • let them know you'll really need all of their attention
  • ask them when would be a good time to have the conversation

By preparing the ground you'll have already communicated that this isn't just an ordinary run-of-the-mill conversation. You'll have also communicated that you respect that he or she has needs too and that you have considered those.

Resources to answer any questions you might have about your relationship

Are your relationship issues really pressing? Do you think you need much more than a page on communication? Then kick start the recovery of your relationship with my Complete Guide to Saving Your Relationship.

Not at all sure that your partner is 'the one', or that it's 'true love'?

My Stay or Go Relationship Test can help you get a much better insight into your relationship.

How to finally get through to your partner

I'm often asked about how on earth you can really get through to your partner! 

  • Why doesn't he or she do or say something?
  • Why doesn't he or she understand?  
  • Why doesn't he or she do what I asked so politely (or not!), so often?
  • Why can't he or she see how much this or that hurts me?  

I totally understand you'd want - and need - direct answers to these kind of relationship questions!

However, only you can get closer to the answer by honing your own communication skills and your own attitude towards your partner.

The more comfortable he or she feels (i.e. the less threatened) the more they are likely to reveal of themselves.

So, let's get you set up with some excellent listening skills...

woman talking to a man - like 'talking to the wall'Sometimes, no matter what you do or say, you just can't get 'through'!

Don't interrogate...

Rather than asking all kinds of questions, you're likely to get much more interaction and information by listening. Be prepared though to sooth yourself, and not react defensively. Don't necessarily expect your partner to communicate sensitively - however much you'd like them too.

When you're ready to have that important or difficult conversation:

10 Ways to fine-tune your listening skills

  1. Face your partner from a slight angle, or simply go for a walk together
  2. Make eye contact without staring, and break every now and then
  3. Match your body position a little -– the angle of your spine, arms and legs
  4. Avoid fidgeting as it's distracting - settle yourself in a comfortable, familiar position
  5. Match your tone of voice and pitch subtly to your partner
  6. Match your speed of talking just a little Be open and inviting, relaxed and positive
  7. Suspend any judgements - remember everything you see, hear or feel is feedback (provided you are safe of course!)
  8. Blend anything that you now learn with your own natural style - you're already as unique as the stars. Why be any different?
  9. Listen - most of all - stay quiet, bite your tongue, your time will come

No mean feat sticking to all that, I know. However, all these points help to build rapport. Your partner will start to really feel that you're making a connection with him or her and that you're genuinely interested.

Building rapport is a skill most people are born with - to a degree. It's part of our genetic heritage. It means really connecting with someone.

Just by building rapport and listening, you'll be taking the wind out of someone's sails (if needs be)!

What if you've messed up before?

It's very likely that you've made mistakes - haven't we all!  If you've let the side down with shouts, manipulation, put-downs and stone-walling, then it's going to take some determination and persistence with your new-found skills. It will probably take a little while before your partner 'gets' it, and for him or her to remain calm and communicate well.

In this case - start the conversation with something like: "I know I've handled this very poorly on previous occasions, but I'll do all I can to do better this time."

Of course, when you've set that expectation, you need to work extra hard to fulfil it. Otherwise you're back to square one and you still won't get your relationship questions answered.

How to become an advanced listener

Here are some really important listening tips that will help you to get an answer to your questions, when your partner just isn't talking...

8 Advanced listening skills

  1. Concentrate on what he or she is saying - don't allow yourself to become distracted. Stay relaxed though!
  2. Ask questions gently, don'’t interrogate or ‘interview’. Start your questions with how, what, when, where.
  3. Be very careful with asking 'why' though - it may reveal a criticism
  4. Ask them to expand a little: "Can you say a little more about that?" Highlight any feelings you pick up: "You sound angry/hurt".
  5. Leave space for the other person to gather their thoughts
  6. Avoid filling in silences too quickly
  7. Don'’t form counter-arguments in your head whilst listening
  8. Listen out for any clues to underlying problems (without jumping to conclusions - always check your suspicions first)

Remember - you can spoil all your great attempts by:

  • judging
  • jumping to conclusion
  • making assumptions
  • making critical comments

When you have burning relationship questions, these conversation killers will prevent you getting any decent answers. Instead you're likely to end up with an argument. Not what you wanted at all!

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Images courtesy of: Herald Post, Pedro Simoes