Successful Couple Communication Techniques

communication exercises for couples

By: John M. Tidd, Psy.D.

A successful communication exercise for couples

Realize that every couple is unique in their starting place and some may need a professional to help them achieve their goal of healthier communication. If you feel you would like extra help in your relationship or you have any questions about the above model, I would be glad to help you.

Many challenges arise when couples try to effectively communicate with each other.  For example, every person has a different upbringing that may impact their perspective as well as contribute to their varying communication styles.

If you’re struggling to try to improve the communication in your relationship, you’re not alone. Given the fact that there are so many unseen factors at play when approaching a conversation with your significant other, feeling frustrated in trying to get through to one another is not uncommon.

Implementing a few simple exercises to improve your relationship communication can make a world of difference. As a relationship psychologist, I help couples to communicate more effectively and to connect on a deeper level. Depending on the couples needs we will work through various exercises. Below is one of them that I have found effective in helping to strengthen communication between couples.

Simple Communication Exercise for Couples

Goal: The primary goal of the Speaker-Listener technique is to enhance a couple’s mutual understanding, which can result in:

Mutual emotional intimacy

Stopping a “Tit-for-Tat” (Criticize-Defend) Cycle

Feeling understood is one of the most craved and powerful experiences a couple can have

Speaker-Listener Process:

  1. Pick a Speaker
  2. Pick a Listener

Speaker’s Role:

  • Be concise (less than 30 seconds, sometimes less than 10!)
  • Slow down
  • Speak from self (“I” Statements, not “you” statements)
  • Share deeper feelings (from your heart)
  • Calm voice
  • Good eye contact
  • Open body language
  • Choose words carefully (if you think maybe you shouldn’t say it, maybe you shouldn’t say it)

Listener’s Role:

  • Listen with intent to understand
  • Listen with an open heart
  • Listen for emotional words
  • Nod your head
  • Let go of competing thoughts (Don’t defend, e.g. “I didn’t do that”)
  • Open body language
  • If getting lost, politely interrupt with intent to understanding (“I want to make sure I heard you,” “Could you say that again in two sentences?”)
  • When speaker is done, reflect (repeat) what the speaker said using their words (“What I heard you say was…”)
  • Make statements that give validation like, “That makes sense,” or, “I can see why you would feel that”
  • Then ask, “Did I get that right?” “Did I miss anything?”

Speaker’s Role:

  • Reward the listener (“you got it, thank you”)
  • If there was important information missed, add it
  • Do not add more information

Speaker-Listener Process:

  1. When the speaker feels understood, switch roles
  2. When both partners feel understood, one “communication chunk” is complete

Remember to pick a quiet place to talk (no distractions, no technology).

This process can feel awkward at first, but with practice, it can become more comfortable and can be highly effective.

Source: Speaker-Listener technique by PREP (Prepare/Enrich)


Communicating Effectively: Tips To Remember

Start with an open mind & share your thoughts & opinions with humility. Another important thing to be aware of while communicating with your partner is that “the message sent is rarely the message that is received” In conversation, there is a sender and a receiver, and the roles get reversed as the dialogue progresses.  Be sure to fully listen and be patient in the receiving role as this will help in fully understanding the message that is being given by the sender. Know that you may not always agree on the end result but if you shift the focus from finding agreement to finding common ground it will help each person to feel better listened to and understood. While in conversation also understand that agreement is a goal of the conversation but not necessarily a requirement. This will help to ensure that your goal of communicating is not trying to prove your point but also to hear your significant other’s point of view and take it into consideration. It also communicates that you validate and acknowledges what the other person is saying even if you don’t 100 percent agree. Also, be aware of the fact that every message has room for truth and error. Understanding this will allow you to keep an open mind to accept new information as well as, it should remind you to remain humble when presenting information.

“An effective communicator knows how to separate the person from the issue (or behavior), and be soft on the person and firm on the issue. An ineffective communicator will do the opposite – he or she will literally “get personal” by attacking the person while minimizing or ignoring the issue.” – Preston Ni M.S.B.A. Communication Success