Tips for Open, Honest Talking | Reader's Digest

Tips for Open, Honest Talking

Sharing your true feelings with your partner can be difficult. Try these easy tips for open, honest talking.

By Sarì Harrar and Rita DeMaria | Ph.D. from The 7 Stages of Marriage

Couples in the Realization stage often feel they’d like to speak up — about the checking account, their plans for Friday night, a feeling they’d like to share, or a problem they’d like to solve. Yet at the same time, they don’t want to rock the boat or, worse yet, start a fight. Why do anything that might discourage that elusive honeymoon feeling, which seems to come and go of its own accord these days? And why say anything at all? After all, shouldn’t your one true love just know what’s important to you?

You’re bumping into all sorts of big issues, and beneath the big questions is an even bigger one: How will you communicate with each other in a way that’s clear and honest, empathetic and supportive? We’re here to help. A major Realization stage mission is learning the basics of good dialogue: assertive speaking and empathetic listening. (In the Rebellion stage, we’ll show you how to build on these skills to solve problems and turn conflicts into productive conversations.) These are skills everyone needs and that most of us don’t learn in our families of origin, from TV sitcom laugh tracks, or from romantic novels. In fact, a national survey of over 20,000 couples found that 82 percent wished their partners were more willing to share feelings, 75 percent had difficulty asking for what they wanted, and 72 percent revealed that their partners don’t understand how they feel.

Learning these essential communication tools can make all the difference. When the researchers compared happy and unhappy pairs, they found that while 90 percent of blissful couples were satisfied with how they and their spouses talked together, just 15 percent of unhappy twosomes were. Just 18 percent of dissatisfied couples said their partners were good listeners, compared to 83 percent of happy couples.

Having the courage, confidence, and conviction to say what’s on your mind and in your heart is vitally important for great communication. These tips can help.

Be brave — say it out loud. Don’t wait for your partner to suddenly grasp unspoken thoughts, feelings, and needs hidden in your body language or in veiled hints. Example: Instead of sighing, tapping your foot, or mentioning the late hour in an offhand way while you wish desperately that your partner would announce he’s ready to leave a late party, try “I’m feeling very tired. I’d like to go home in the next 10 minutes.”