At last, you've found someone with whom you completely click. Sparks are flying between you two, and you feel like this person really, truly gets you. The only problem? Your otherwise wonderful partner is bad at communicating — like, serious boyfriend communication issues. Maybe they're awful at responding to texts in a timely manner. Or, worse yet, maybe they get back to you with nothing more than a dreaded, “k.” If this sounds familiar and you’re wondering how to communicate with your boyfriend or girlfriend more effectively, you’re not alone. While some people have no problem expressing their thoughts and feelings, others (like, many others) have a much harder time processing and articulating their emotions. So, what should you do if, and when, you’re dating a bad communicator?
"If your significant other is a bad communicator, then they may have a difficult time understanding what you are trying to convey when you tell them they are a bad communicator," says Dr. Josh Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show. "Communication is not just speaking. It is the ability to understand information, to process non-verbal signals the other person is giving, and then take that all in and speak. So if your partner is not a good communicator, they may also not be a great listener."
If you’re not sure how to talk to your boyfriend or girlfriend about, well, how to talk, I’ve brought in the experts to help. Here are seven tips for navigating a conversation with your partner about their sub-par communication and listening skills.
Again, illustration is key. Try to bring up recent examples that will be fresh in both of your minds. (They’ll probably be more accurate, too.) Choose moments of poor communication from the past few days, if you can, rather than dredging up moments that irked you weeks or months earlier. Memories can be hazy, after all.
"Be as recent as possible," says Dr. Klapow. "Trying to use examples from even a week in the past can bring up conflict if your partner doesn't remember the conversation the way you do. So the more recent the better."
Your approach to this conversation can, and will, make all the difference. Instead of telling your S.O. they’re straight-up bad at communicating, try to focus on your needs and the ways in which they could be better met.
"Let them know that if they talk this way, or speak in this tone, or make eye contact that that is very helpful to you," says Dr. Klapow. "Let them believe they are helping you, versus them not doing a great job."
Now that you have recent, concrete examples in mind, plus ways to address the issue, you may be asking yourself, “Should I text or say it in person?”
"Text messaging is ripe for miscommunication," says Dr. Klapow. "There are no tonal qualities from a person's voice, no facial or bodily expressions to soften a point or to make it more direct. Call, use a virtual software (Skype, FaceTime), but do not do the communication via text. Talking about communication via text is poor communication."
It might be a mildly awkward conversation to have, but like any serious discussion, it’s best to address this face-to-face. Plus, it’s important to demonstrate strong communication yourself.
To that end, strive to show your partner how you’d like them to communicate by being a brilliant communicator yourself.
“A little ... goes a long way," Lori Salkin, SawYouatSinai.com Senior Matchmaker and Dating Coach, previously told Elite Daily. If you’re double-booked and running late for dinner, for instance, “send frequent messages, even if they only say 'Still here,' or, 'Things are still hectic.’ Updates go a very long way in softening the frustration."If you make a concerted effort to check in with your partner, they’ll be more likely to do the same.
Of course, even if you feel you’re a great communicator, remember that this is a two-way street. Ask your partner how they feel about your communication skills, absorb their feedback, and be open to adapting your habits to fit their needs. "What you think 'works' ... may not for them," says Dr. Klapow. "Let this be about a blending of how you communicate and how they communicate." In other words, giving your partner the opportunity to share their thoughts will help improve your joint communication and your overall relationship. (Even if they’d not given the topic much thought beforehand.)
"Communication skills are important, but more importantly in a relationship is the blend of skills between people. Yes, your partner may not have what you see [as] the best skills, but the problem ... is likely driven by the interaction of your communication skills and theirs," Dr. Klapow continues. "Finding the right fit with the way you communicate and the way they communicate is critical. This is not a test where one person is necessarily 'right' and the other is 'wrong,' but rather it is a mutual understanding of what works best for each of you and between you in the relationship."
Is there a chance this conversation will lead to a bit of conflict and tension? Absolutely. But that’s not a reason not to have it. "Good communication includes fighting and making up." Salkin says. “It is the way in which [a couple] handles the disagreements that can enable a couple to succeed or break up.”
Overall, keep in mind that poor communication in a relationship isn't ever just one person's fault. Communication, like every aspect of a relationship, requires working together. It’s all a team effort — so, go team!
Dr. Josh Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show
Lori Salkin, SawYouatSinai.com Senior Matchmaker and Dating Coach
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