"Communication 101: What You Must Know If You Want To Be Heard"

young girl using can and string to talk to young boy

Communication is one of the most important aspects of a relationship.  Without open, honest and effective communications between partners, misunderstandings can occur and negative patterns can develop.  These communication patterns can become entrenched very quickly—either positively or negatively—so it’s important to be aware of how you communicate in order to develop healthy patterns.  

Aside from communication that is in the form of body language, facial expressions and other subtle ways people communicate and interact, for the purpose of this article we’ll focus on the two basic forms of human communication: Listening and speaking. 


1. Listen attentively. Don’t defend or argue. Instead, spend your time focused on understanding/caring (empathy) and what the other person is saying.

2. Deepen understanding. Ask question for clarification with the intent of understanding the other person better and learning about yourself while allowing for curiosity.

3. Express empathy.  Imagine what it's like for the other person from their perspective and communicate this compassionately.  For example, say ”I hear you felt really hurt by what I said." Empathic statements and non-verbal language like, “Oh” and “Uh-huh” communicate that you’re listening, understand and care.

4. Communicate understanding. Tell them what you've learned about their point of view with the intent of making sure you understand them accurately. If you didn't get it accurately, get clarification and ask questions until you do.


1. Focus. Stay focused on one issue at a time to emphasize what's most important and not overwhelm the listener.

2. Avoid attacking.  Make sure you're calm enough to engage in a conversation with vulnerability and without putting the other person down (i.e. blaming, accusing and name-calling). This is likely to put the other person on the defensive.

3. Learn about yourself.  Mindfully and compassionately notice what triggers you from unmet needs in the past or present and be open to discovering something about yourself.

4. Express yourself.  Express yourself without holding the other person solely responsible for your reactions. Also, assert your needs with requests, not demands and use "I" statements rather than “you” statements.  For example, "When you said xyz,, I felt xyz" not "I think you're a jerk.”  This way you express yourself assertively without being aggressive.

These fundamentals of communication can foster respect with your partner.  In order to keep the dialogue you have with your mate civil, courteous and open and not fall into disrespectful or hurtful ways of talking, try these tips above to help with this.