It's a Guy Thing

Walk the Talk

How learning to communicate effectively could save your relationship

There are three things that I truly believe we should get taught in school: how to do our own taxes, what really happens during sex, and how to effectively and constructively communicate. This last skill would be incredibly useful in not only romantic relationships but in work and family relationships and friendships as well. Unfortunately, we don’t leave high school and enter our adulthood with effective techniques and skills that assist us in knowing how to have constructive conversations, and I spend much of my time working with couples and helping them to learn these skills and techniques. Let’s break down the basics of good communication, as well as looking at some specific techniques you can use. 

  1. Ensure you’re always engaging in active listening – Active listening is pretty easy to do. It means to listen to our partner without thinking about anything else but what they are saying at that moment by being present and fully engaged. 
  • Maintain eye contact (well, as much as possible), as this helps your partner to really feel that you’re listening and you’re present. When you’re staring off into the TV or your phone, or perhaps even gazing at the floor, your partner will feel less important and may even perhaps feel that you don’t care.
  • We act like we are listening, but we are doing “whatever listening” – when we are distracted instead of paying attention to what our partner is saying it’s as if we don’t care; “I’m right…” listening – when we already know we’re right and have the answer, and so we stop listening before a person has finished speaking; or “what next…” listening – where we are thinking ahead, or of something completely different while a person is talking to us.

2. Always use ‘I’ language – one of the most important communication skills is to learn the use of ‘I’ messages. This is because when you start a sentence with ‘you’, your partner might feel attacked, blamed or criticized and thus they’ll feel the need to defend themselves. Begin to use the words “I feel…” when talking to your partner. For example, “I feel unimportant when you’re late for dinner and don’t call” is much more effective than, “you don’t care about anyone but yourself, or you wouldn’t keep me waiting.” The ‘you’ statement is a blaming statement, and will often start or escalate an argument. An ‘I’ statement reports feelings and it’s easier for your partner to respond in a positive way as they don’t feel like they are being blamed. Feeling words are emotions, and include words such as: hurt, angry, frustrated, lonely, inadequate, upset, disappointed, forgotten, appreciated, happy, loved, etc. 

3. Choose the right time and place – if you want to talk to your partner about something that has been bugging you, it’s really helpful to choose a time and a place that is suitable, and where you’ll be uninterrupted. Generally, and if you can, try to have difficult conversations in person. Never try to resolve an issue late at night, when you’ve been drinking, or when your emotions (maybe anger, rage, anxiety) are so high that you cannot think straight. It’s okay to go to bed after an argument! Rather agree to resolve it in the morning after you’ve both tried to get some sleep. Try not to have conflictual conversations in front of friends and family either. It’s not fair to them to be stuck around a fighting couple. Again, agree to press pause and pick up the conversation when the timing is more appropriate. 

4. Bringing up the past never helped anybody – no matter how many times your partner did something before, or what has happened that has caused the conflict, try your best to stick with the present moment, how you feel right then and there, and why you’re feeling it. People become defensive when they’re constantly blamed, so bringing up something that has been an issue again and again, in the same way, is likely going to have the same result it has had in the past. 

5. Be curious… always! – it doesn’t help anyone to accuse their partner of doing something without trying to understand their partner’s point of view. A really great statement to use when sharing with your partner what’s on your mind is this: “The story that I’m telling myself is that…” and then asking your partner if you’ve got it wrong? Owning the way you have conceptualized a situation is important – very few partners take ownership of their disagreements. By being curious and always asking your partner what was happening for them rather than accusing them, or asking them what they need or could be done differently between you can be the difference between constructive or destructive communication. 


In a bubble = Remember, talking is how we engage. It’s a vital (and powerful) tool that shouldn’t be taken for granted.