Your friend is going through a rough patch in his marriage and his wife is telling him that it’s partly because they need to communicate more. He tries to talk with her more, perhaps asking about her day or talking about how work went at the office. She responds, but almost as if it were in passing. Maybe he experiments and changes the conversation to what he’s thinking about doing over the weekend or inquiring about her social plans. But she’s still not responsive, and he can’t figure out why. How many of us have experienced this lack of communication in relationships? Probably more people than we realize.
People often confuse communication for talking or making conversation, and this is the root cause of why many of these same people are so unsuccessful when it comes to how to communicate better. Communication in relationships, at its core, is about connecting and using your verbal, written and physical skills to fulfill your partner’s needs. It’s not about making small talk. It’s about understanding your partner’s point of view, offering support and letting your partner know you are their #1 fan.
WHAT DOES YOUR PARTNER NEED?
There are six fundamental needs that all humans share and each of us puts these needs in a different order in accordance with our core values. Once you discover which needs matter the most to your partner, you’ll know how to communicate better and in a way that satisfies and fulfills them. This can also apply to employees.
The first human need is the need for certainty. It’s this need that drives us to seek out pleasure and avoid pain, stress and emotional risks. Ask yourself these questions: How secure is my partner feeling in our relationship? Does it feel more like a gamble, or is there certainty in the commitment we’ve made to each other? Is there certainty in our standard of living? We all find safety and comfort in different things. Have you tried being open with your partner about what gives them certainty and makes them feel stable? Have you talked about what you need to feel certain in your relationship? We all differ in our need for how much we need the certainty of our relationship confirmed. The key to how to communicate in a relationship is understanding each other’s needs and fulfilling them accordingly.
The second human need that affects our communication in relationships is the need for variety. Surprising events can be scary, but they can also be exciting and fun. Uncertainty can be beautiful if you know how to communicate with your partner about the certainty and solidity of your relationship. How we face the unexpected dictates the way we build character and our ability to do more in life. Are there enough healthy challenges in your relationship, and in the life you share with your partner, that you and your partner can tackle together to ensure that you grow together, too? As you learn how to communicate better, you’ll find that variety keeps things fun and exciting with your partner.
Significance is the third human need: We all need to feel unique and important. You can already feel how important this is in your relationship, right? Communication is key to this particular desire because your partner needs to know that they are important. You need to know how to communicate with your partner that you need them, in a singular way – that they fulfill your needs in ways that only they can. How do you demonstrate to your partner, not just tell them, that they are significant to you? Remember, communication in relationships is not just about words. You can show them through loving touch, offering them support when they need it and spending quality time with them.
The fourth basic human need is for connection and love. Every human needs to feel connected with others; after all, we are social animals. Knowing that we’re loved through effective communication in relationships can make us feel at our most alive, but absence of love can cause pain like nothing else can. Too often we automatically say “I love you” in order to solve a conflict with our partners and forget to show love in a real, tangible way that speaks to our partner’s needs. Reverse this pattern: consciously show your partner that you love them every day, and by doing that, your connection will deepen. Do this in a way that speaks best to their personal preferences and needs. How to communicate better is about realizing what “language” your partner best understands and giving them love in that way. Remember, love is about giving, not getting, and you should always be focused on how you can give more.
Growth is the fifth human need. The human experience is one of motion and without constant growth, our relationships will become stale. We constantly endeavor to evolve along the different paths that interest us the most, whether these are emotional, intellectual, spiritual or otherwise. Your partner has the need for growth as much as you do and when we learn how to communicate better, we can also learn how to better grow together. When was the last time you supported your partner’s growth in the areas that he or she is most passionate about? How can you continue to support them to the fullest?
The sixth and final human need is contribution and giving. As Tony Robbins often says, the secret to living is giving. Contribution is our source of meaning— it determines who we become and solidifies our legacy, who we are and our role in the world. Consider what you give to your partner and how you can give more. Are you giving your time? Your undivided attention? The benefit of the doubt? A second chance? When communication in relationships is strong, both partners are able to continually come up with new and better ways of contributing to the other’s happiness