The Art of Communicating

From The Book of Love, Dr. Laura Berman shares tips to establish and finess the communication between you and your partner. Click here to purchase your copy.

The Art of Communicating

Tailor Your Message

The first rule of communication is to target your audience. Not everyone communicates in the same way, and this is particularly true of different genders. Men tend to report facts with few details, whereas women speak at length with lots of detail to build rapport. Men come to the point first, and add color afterward. Women build up to the point and enjoy the telling of the story. Tailor your approach accordingly: get straight to the point for him; supply the detail for her.

Men also tend to make less direct eye contact than women, an aspect of male behavior associated with power and status. Give her a little more eye contact and him a little less, and you will both feel more comfortable.

Every couple has a different communication style. Some use baby talk or inside jokes; others rely on body language to deliver their message. If you haven't yet found your ideal method, explore some new ways of staying in close contact.

Speak Intimately

One of the fun parts of being in a relationship is that you get to develop your own language and vocabulary. Using a secret language, such as baby talk, pet names, or code words, can help keep you bonded and allows you to converse without anyone else being able to understand what you are saying.

Try subtle ways of talking privately to each other. Some couples use code, such as "I wonder what the weather will do tomorrow," to signal when they are ready to leave a party. Others even have an "I love you" code, such as "Can you pass the pepper, honey?" These codes can help you to communicate with your spouse whenever the mood strikes, no matter who is in earshot!

What's Important is to Understand Each Other.

The main objective is to communicate in ways that work best for you. Every couple interacts differently depending on the personalities and dynamics in the relationship, and there are no rights or wrongs. Be guided by your experience. If using baby talk or code words doesn't flow naturally, then it's probably not for you. Most couples rely on a mix of styles to get their messages across. Make your own rules--nobody knows your relationship better than you.

Build on the Past

What do long-term couples have that other couples don't? A history. From wherever you first said, "I love you," to your first housewarming, your history is what connects you and makes your relationship unique.

Revisit the scene of your first dinner date. Order the same choices from the menu, even the same wine. Recall the conversation you had, along with any observations about each other that you couldn't share at the time, such as, "I thought you were so uptight!" Laugh about your misconceptions, and remember how keen you were to impress each other. Keeping those memories alive is not only fun, but also an important bonding mechanism.

Use Body Language

When it comes to communicating intimacy, body language is perhaps the most powerful tool available to couples. Without saying a word, you can create an environment for healthy communication and emotional connection.

Make sure that your body language promotes positive communication by leaning forward when you are listening, and mirroring your partner by subtly copying his or her hand or body movements. Touch your partner's arm, stroke his or her back, or squeeze his or her hand affectionately. Sit close together so that your bodies are touching as much as possible--simply removing the physical distance between you can help bring you closer emotionally, too.

Express Yourself

Sometimes an expression can say more than words. From the slightest tilt of your head to the tiniest lift of an eyebrow, your facial expressions convey a great deal of meaning to your partner. You can probably tell exactly what sort of mood your partner is in just by looking at his or her expression when he or she comes through the door.

Practice reading your partner's expression. Does your lover have a hint of mischief in his eye? Is she raising an eyebrow questioningly or flirtatiously? Try sending your partner nonverbal love messages with your eyes across a busy dinner table. Being able to read each other correctly means that you can both tell how you are really feeling.

Reprinted by arrangement with DK Publishing from THE BOOK OF LOVE.  Copyright (c) 2009 by DK Publishing. Text (c) 2008 by Laura Berman, PhD.  All rights reserved.

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