Effective communication is important for a healthy relationship. There can be several signs of a lack of relationship communication. However, people may use various tips to improve it.

Relationships can take many forms. People have relationships with friends or acquaintances, partners, or family members, and even those they dislike. People also have relationships with themselves. Romantic relationships have a powerful influence on a person’s well-being.

Effective communication is essential for relationships. Research has found that how well people in relationships communicate can predict their relationship satisfaction over time. A lack of relationship communication often indicates a person’s future relationship satisfaction will be worse.

Communication is the heart of supporting and promoting relationship satisfaction. There can be several signs that a relationship is unhealthy due to a lack of communication.

However, there are a number of ways for people to improve their communication with their partner, and in the process their relationship.

This article discusses the signs that a relationship may lack communication. It also discusses tips for improving relationship communication, and communication pitfalls to avoid.

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There can be several signs of poor relationship communication:

Passive-aggressive behavior

Passive-aggressive behavior is where a person avoids direct communication and uses indirect attacks toward another. They express their hostility toward others verbally, timidly, or nonverbally. They may use inaction when people would normally act.

Examples of passive-aggressive communication include:

  • sarcasm
  • silence, or ignoring communication such as emails or calls
  • avoiding conversation
  • negative comments
  • commenting on topics that they know make another person uncomfortable
  • avoiding certain topics if they know the other person wishes to discuss them
  • backhanded compliments

Use of aggressive speech

Examples of aggressive speech may include:

  • speaking loudly, yelling, or with a raised voice
  • swearing or using profanities
  • often interrupting the other person
  • blaming the other person
  • refusing to listen to the other person
  • making threats

Avoiding conflict

Avoiding conflict when communicating with a partner may seem like a solution in the short term. However, over time it can allow unresolved issues to become bigger.

People can communicate more effectively and openly using the following tips:

Process one’s own feelings first

It can be difficult to communicate effectively when angry or upset. Having a conversation about emotional, distressing, or charged issues may lead to ineffective or angry conversations. This can make it difficult to reach a meaningful resolution to issues.

People can help avoid this by processing their own feelings on an issue before talking with their partner. Taking time to explore their issues and calm themselves can help to allow calm communication and conflict resolution.

Timing is important

Timing can help improve relationship communication. Allowing enough time for a conversation can allow both sides to feel unrushed and able to fully discuss issues.

Choosing a time in advance allows people to prepare without time pressure. Knowing that their partner would like to talk with them later also reduces feelings of ambush or surprise.

Use ‘I’ statements

‘I’ statements are where a person makes a statement about themselves. ‘I’ statements:

  • explain how they feel
  • what they would like to solve
  • do not:
    • attack the person they are speaking to or put them on the defensive
    • tell the other person that they did anything wrong or they must do something

One example of an ‘I’ statement comes from the Office of Student Conflict Resolution at the University of Michigan: “I feel frustrated when the lights are left on after midnight because it is hard for me to fall asleep. I then do poorly in my classes. I was hoping we could turn the lights off or dim them at a certain time every night.”

Focus on both listening and being heard

Active listening from both partners can help communication in relationships. Both people should actively focus on listening to the other person’s point of view.

In active listening, people ensure they have understood the other’s point of view by restating what they say. They also check on what the other person may be feeling.

Active listening may take a little time to learn. However, it can help improve relationships.

Set clear boundaries

Setting and respecting communication boundaries is essential for any relationship. Communication boundaries are setting needs, wants, and limits to others and respecting their boundaries in return. They allow people to feel comfortable in expressing needs without fear of a negative response, such as their:

  • wants
  • goals
  • fears
  • limits

Compromise and resolution as the goal

Effective relationship communication allows people to arrive at an understanding. Reaching a resolution by the end of a conversation may involve agreeing to compromise in a relationship.

Ideally, both partners should feel like they have reached a resolution, allowing them to move forward constructively.

Read tips to save a struggling relationship.

There are certain communication pitfalls that people should try to avoid to practice healthy communication in their relationships.

Silent treatment

Silent treatment is when a person refuses to talk with or possibly acknowledge their partner. Although it can just be a sign of poor communication skills, it can also be damaging.

Shutting a partner out can damage a relationship if they do not know why the other person is doing so.

Yelling or screaming

Although yelling or screaming during an argument may seem like a way to make a point, it can be damaging to a relationship. It may cause conversations to become overly intense and painful and can make it impossible to communicate effectively.

Bringing up past mistakes

Bringing up past mistakes during conversation can imply a person does not forgive their partner. It may also make them more defensive, making it harder to communicate with them effectively.

Effective communication is essential for relationship well-being. Having a healthy relationship is important for a person’s mental and physical health.

There can be certain signs people in a relationship are not effectively communicating. However, there are several ways to improve relationship communication.