Better Relationships Start with Better Communication | Top 5 Communication Skills You Need

Better Relationships Start with
Better Communication
Top 5 Skills You Need

Do you argue or communicate?
Being an effective communicator is not something you just KNOW how to do.  You have to learn those skills and most of us don't. Many of us were not modeled effective communication in our homes, or even schools and workplaces, so it's no wonder we struggle with it now.  

When I was a couples therapist for a while I kept seeing communication break down in the SAME patterns in almost EVERY relationship.  In this episode I'm going to share those top 5 patterns and the 5 skills you need to develop in order to overcome them.  And these skills don't just apply to your marriage, these 5 communication skills will help you in every conversation in every relationship.

The 5 skills are:
- Preparation: in order to be an effective communicator you have to be SUPER clear on your own thoughts, feelings, experiences, etc. BEFORE going into the conversation.  I give you my whole system for clarity before the conversation happens
- Listen more than you speak: to be an effective communicator you have to be an effective listener and truly seek to understand (though not necessarily agree with) the other person.  Listening is a skill, I'll teach you how.
- Ask more than you tell: asking good questions is the KEY to being a good communicator.  Communicating is not just expressing how YOU feel, it's about understanding and having empathy for how the other person feels. My main job as a therapist was asking good questions, I'll teach you how to as well.
- Don't attack or blame or guilt trip: I saw this so much in couples therapy.  You need to go into a conversation with the assumption that the other person had and has good intentions.  
Your communication STYLE also matters - are you aggressive, assertive, passive or passive aggressive? We'll discuss all of these, and I'm going to call you out a bit on being passive or passive aggressive.
- Check your vibes: if the other person doesn't want to talk, you might need to check the energy you're approaching with.  So often I see people trying to approach a conversation with the body language of "I've already decided you're guilty, let's talk about everything you did wrong!"  No one is going to want to participate in that conversation.  

If there's ANYONE in your life that you struggle to effectively communicate with, I PROMISE this episode will shed some light for you on WHY it's a struggle and what to do about it. 

If anything in this episode resonated with you, I'd LOVE to hear about it! Send me a DM on Instagram or post a screenshot of this episode in your stories and tag me @tarafaulmann! And join the conversation in our FREE No Nonsense Wellness Community!

Full transcription available at the bottom of this post


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Full Transcript: 
Health and Wellness isn't just about what you eat or how you exercise. It's not just about the decisions you're making for yourself. It's also about the whole you. And that includes your relationships, better relationships, start with better communication. So today, I'm giving you my top five skills to become a better communicator. Let's go. 

If you've been listening to me for any length of time for the last 30 episodes, you know that my passion is not just to teach you how to eat food or to exercise more. My passion is to help you become the best version of you. And that includes making sure that all facets of you are addressed. Communication is one of those facets, what goes on in your own head, your mental state the things you're thinking every day, the thought patterns and behavior patterns that you've gotten stuck in. Those are the things that I'm concerned about. So if those are things that you're concerned about for yourself, I want you to hop into the Healthy Mind Healthy Body Program, go to, check it out, click the link, you can just read all about it, you will find that this approach is totally different than anything that you've tried before. 

So for today, you might want to get out your pen and take some notes on this one. You are guaranteed to hear some things you have not heard before because this is coming from the therapist Tara. So sometimes I'm nutrition coach Tara, sometimes I'm fitness person, Tara. Today I'm therapist, Tara. So in my training as a therapist, I got to learn a ton about relationships and communication. And it has served me so well in my own life, especially my own marriage, I actually was a marriage counselor for a time. And I got to see inaction, failed communication over and over again. And I got to see what happens when those communication skills really break down in relationships. And now I see in my life that over the years, how social media and even texting has changed and I think hampered our ability to be effective communicators. I want to share the skills with you that I use to share with my therapy clients, so that you can be a more effective communicator in all of your relationships, not just with your spouse or significant other but with your friends and with your co workers and even with your children. Before I get started, I want to just share with you a quick bonus tip. And that is social media is not a conversation. Social media is not a place to practice effective communication, because you're not having effective communication on social media. So if you want to actually have a conversation with someone, if you want to actually get somewhere, you're going to have to take it off social media, and make it a voice to voice conversation or a face to face conversation. Now, yes, you can be an effective communicator through writing, but most of us are not. And that's a whole other skill. How we speak and communicate is different than how we write and communicate. That's another skill that I'm not even talking about today. So I want you to use these skills in the context of having a face to face or at the very least a voice to voice conversation. Cool. All right, let's go. 

The first skill that you need to work on is to prepare yourself for the conversation ahead of time. You need to get real clear on your thoughts and feelings and what you actually want out of this conversation. What is the purpose? What is the goal of having this conversation with this person? What are the things that we are actually we talking about? Are we talking about a current thing that's happening? Are we talking about a pattern of behaviors? Are we talking about something from the past that a current situation has triggered for you, you need to get really crystal clear on your position here. Is this something you want to complain about your spouse, because they're always doing this, and they're constantly doing that? Is this something that happened a long time ago, and then something recently happened, and it's triggering some stuff for you, and you need to talk it through. Like you need to get real clear on where you're coming from. You also need to prepare yourself and get really clear on what your ideal outcome is, what are your wants? And what are your needs? What do you need out of this conversation, you have to be clear about that for yourself. So that you can be clear about that in the conversation, you also need to really be clear about what you're feeling right now about the current situation, the situation that you need to have a conversation about, you need to understand what are my feelings? And where are they coming from? What are the thoughts that are creating those feelings? Are these habitual patterns of feelings and thoughts that are coming from my past that are now coming out? Now, you need to know exactly what's going on for yourself. Before you enter into that conversation. You also need to in preparation for this conversation, you need to have an understanding of what part of this conflict or issue are you responsible for? What has been your part in this, if you're coming at someone trying to blame them for making you feel a certain way, or blame them for things that they're doing wrong? It's gonna go nowhere, you already know that to be true. So you need to get really clear on what is your part in this conflict issue? And then what is your part in this conversation? What are you taking personal responsibility for in this situation, and then you need to have a clear understanding, remember, this is all before the conversation is happening.  

You need to have a clear understanding of the assumptions that you have about the other person's intentions are their perspective, you might be putting some intentions or some feelings, or perspectives on that other person that don't actually exist, right. So you might be thinking to yourself, oh, my spouse is just totally trying to sabotage me right now. Or he's totally just trying to be rude to me, or he's so disrespectful all the time, or he doesn't even care about how I feel, right? You are putting all of that on them, that might not be anywhere near the truth of what's actually going on for the other person. So you need to be very aware of the assumptions about the other person that you are bringing into this conversation. And I also want you to think about the idea that just because you're ready to talk about something does not be the other person is ready to talk about something. One of the things I used to do with the couples that I was working with was had the I would have them schedule a conversation. So instead of in the moment, we just start going at it, we start fighting and arguing and doing all the things. I had them schedule a conversation. So they would say something like, "I don't think we're seeing eye to eye on this. And I'd really like to talk about it. Can we come back to this on Thursday?" We would schedule a conversation that way each party had a day or two if they needed it to do all of this prep work for themselves. So they could come to the conversation fully ready, and fully open and fully prepared to have a civilized and non arguing conversation. So try that try scheduling a conversation instead of just getting into it in the moment. So all of those things were happening for you before you even get into this conversation. 

Now, while we're in the conversation, here's skill number two, you have to learn how to listen more than you speak. How many times are you in a quote unquote, conversation. But what you're really trying to do is just listen to form your next argument, instead of listening to actually understand what the other person is saying and what they're trying to convey. Have you really been listening to the conversation? Or have you been distracted by your own thoughts running through your heads, you could think of what to say next part of listening is letting the other person know that they have been heard. If you want to have effective communication, if you want to have an effective conversation, the other person in the conversation needs to know that you fully hear them, you see them you understand what they are trying to say it doesn't mean you agree with it. It just means that you hear it. So as a therapist, I would teach couples and I would use myself something called a reflective statement. So that just means I would say something like "so what I'm hearing you say is blah, blah, blah. Is that correct?" It doesn't mean that I necessarily agree with what they said. But I'm letting them know that I thoroughly understood what they were saying. And now I can either ask how to support them, or I can challenge that viewpoint if, if that's where we're going. So you have to be able to really make the other person understand that you hear them understand them. If you are not doing that, if that's a skill you don't have, you need to practice that because your conversations will go nowhere. Because the person you're in communication with will feel like it's a very one sided situation. And you're listening is listening with empathy. Remember, you're seeking to understand not be understood, you are listening, and assuming that they have good intentions, even if it doesn't sound that way, even if their words are, right. Even if they're not a very good communicator, you are always entering that conversation with the assumption that they have good intentions for this conversation. If you enter a conversation thinking like they're just a dumb a-hole and this is gonna go nowhere. Well, guess what, it's gonna go nowhere. Or if you enter it thinking like they don't even care, they even want to have this conversation, guess what, it's going nowhere. But if you enter conversation, with the assumption that they have good intentions, they want a good outcome, the conversation will go much better. And it probably goes without saying that if you are going to have an effective conversation, you should put down your phone, you should turn off the TV, you should give 100% attention to that other person and the conversation at hand. Yes, that seems obvious. But you'd be shocked how many people don't actually do that you might be one of them. My kids always joke with me like, Oh, don't talk to mom, she's in texting mode. And it's true, I cannot have an effective conversation and also trying to be texting or messaging someone at the same time. So I've made it very clear to my kids, if I am doing that, I'm trying to communicate with that person, I can only effectively communicate with one person at a time, unless I'm like, on a stage giving a talk or something or maybe on this podcast, I guess. But it's true for it's not just true. For me. It's true for everyone, if you are texting and also trying to have a conversation you are doing neither one of them. Well, let's just be honest about it. So pick one, finish that conversation, and then start the next one. 

Okay, skill number three, is asking good questions. having a conversation, again, remember is seeking to understand the only way you can seek to truly understand is if you're asking good questions, you have to ask more than you tell. You don't have to think of some like incredible question to ask, you can just ask things like Why? Why do you think that is? Where is that coming from? What is this bringing up for you help the conversation go a little deeper? Listen, we're all really complex, right? We all have a lot going on in our brains in our lives and our past. Like, we bring a lot of things to the table. When we're having a big conversation. It's not just about that conversation, it's about all the other things that we're bringing in bringing to the table. So if you really want to understand someone and have empathy for them, you have to develop an understanding of them. And the only way you're going to do that is by asking more questions, not by telling what you think, Okay. You can't have empathy and understanding for someone else by telling you can only have that by asking more questions you could ask. I don't know if I understand where you're coming from. Can you tell me more about this? That was? That's a question I use a lot. I'm not quite sure I'm getting this. Can you tell me more about this? I know it sounds therapisty. But guess what? We're therapists for a reason, because it works. So yes, you can use this in your own life. My husband always jokes like "stop therapizing me". It's just who I am like, I don't I can't. It's just what I do. I find that asking questions leads the other person to a greater understanding of themselves. And through them understanding themselves and where they're coming from, I can understand them better. Because here's the truth, you might do all this work yourself. You might do all this prep work going into a conversation, but the other person might have done nothing. The other person might not have these skills, the other person might not know these things that you know now. So you need to help them understand help them get to a greater understanding about themselves, and where they're coming from, then you also will have a greater understanding about them in this conversation. 

And in general, in terms of listening and asking more than you tell and asking good questions. We got to stop viewing things as right or wrong my way or your way, good or bad A or B. As humans, we can hold a lot of seemingly opposite viewpoints all at once and all are valid. We all have beliefs about conversation, communication, conflict confrontation. We are all bringing a lot of different experiences and different things to the table, we are shaped by our past experiences of having conversations and our arguments, we are shaped by our cultural backgrounds, our family backgrounds, like we're all bringing a whole lot to this conversation a whole lot to the table. So if you want it to be an effective communication, you need to ask questions, to develop an understanding of where that person is coming from, like, really seek to understand that because if you can, your conversation will be a lot more productive. Now, let me be clear, this does not mean that you like are going to agree with them, or that you are going to end this in a Kumbaya moment. And like, everything's great. That's not how conversations always go, you might still completely disagree, but you have a better understanding of where they're coming from, which is really important to seeing them as a person, not just an opinion.

Skill number four, that I saw in every single couple that I saw as a therapist did poorly was this, do not attack, or blame or guilt trip in a conversation, or really ever. This is the go-to method that I saw every single couple who came to therapy, these are the things that they did. So if you want your conversation to go, well, don't do these things. What you want to do, just like we just talked about is approach the other person, with curiosity with openness, in a collaborative mindset, you are not approaching this conversation with you're wrong. I'm right, let me tell you why you're approaching the conversation with I want to collaborate, I want to understand I am curious about your viewpoint, I am curious about where this went wrong for you. I am open to hearing your side, be super clear. And use specific examples. Avoid blaming and avoid using accusatory language, so state exactly the things that you notice or that you want to bring up. But do not use absolutes, like you always do this, or you never do this as an example, you need to get really specific: this happened, this specific thing, you said this, or you did this, and here's why we're having this conversation. You want to communicate from a place of logic, but also a place of feeling. Because what you're wanting to do is give the other person the benefit of the doubt of their intentions. instead of blaming, instead of saying you did this, and I felt like this, you made me feel like this, you always do this to me, right? You're coming from a place of I'm not putting bad intentions on you. So you're gonna say things like, "I felt frustrated when you bla bla bla, I know this probably wasn't your intention, but this was the impact that it had on me. And I want to let you know that so that we can clear the air", you feel the difference here. Okay, right. Instead of saying, you always act like this, and blah, blah, blah, right? You're coming from the angle of I know, it wasn't your intention to do this. But here's the impact that this thing had on me. And I just want you to know that so we can talk about it. Okay, assume that they did not have bad intentions. Now, some people do have bad intentions. I'm not gonna discount that some people legit do have bad intentions. And that will be real apparent, real fast. And that's a conversation you probably just should leave because it's not going to go anywhere. Obviously, why would you have a conversation with someone who has bad intentions for you. So if it's your spouse, if it's a friend, if it's a co worker, if it's someone in your family, chances are they did not mean to do this thing, they did not have that intentions. They just didn't know how to deal. And so now we can come back calmly and talk about how to deal. 

If you feel like you're being attacked by this other person you're trying to have a conversation with, you need to check in with yourself. Often I would see that one spouse would feel very attacked by the other. But the truth was, they weren't being attacked at all. The other spouse was just simply saying the things that they were thinking and feeling and trying to be very honest. And the other spouse was feeling very attacked by that. But it was not because of their person it was because of the thoughts and feelings that they were having. So if you are feeling attacked, you need to check in with yourself and have an understanding. Is this really the case? Are they really attacking me? Or am I being passive? Or am I even being passive aggressive in this conversation? So if you're having a conversation with someone who is an assertive person, and I would be someone you would have a conversation with you as an assertive person, right? If you don't also rise to that level of assertiveness, you may feel like you're being attacked even though you are not being attacked. It's just that the other person is more assertive than you Being in this conversation, you are being passive, you are not standing up for yourself, you are not speaking your mind, you are not being clear on your thoughts. You may have developed this over time, you may have developed your own passive or passive aggressive styles of communication. Maybe you're really honest with yourself about if you are passive in conversations or passive aggressive, and learn a more assertive style of communication. Now, I want to be super clear here, there is a difference between being an assertive communicator and an aggressive communicator. 

An assertive communicator is clear, direct, honest, we can agree to disagree, neither one of us has to be wrong, but I'm going to be very clear and honest and direct - that is an assertive communicator. An aggressive communicator is someone who comes at it with the energy of it's my way or the highway, agree with me or you're wrong. That's someone who you can't have a conversation with, you can't have a conversation, two sided conversation with an aggressive communicator, you can absolutely and should and learn to be an assertive communicator, someone who is clear, direct and honest and is okay with not agreeing, but not making either one of you wrong. A passive communicator is someone who is not open and is not fully honest, you probably feel if you're a passive communicator, like you get walked all over. In every conversation, I'm gonna call you out right now, if you are a passive communicator, it is not the other person's fault in the conversation, it is yours. If you are a passive communicator, you need to work on and learn how to be more assertive, it is not the other person's fault, that they are assertive, and you are passive. Now this is probably something that you have learned in your life, there was probably situations in your life where it served you to be more passive, maybe we're dealing with an aggressive communicator. And the only way you could get through it was to be passive. I want you to come to some understanding for yourself about these things. I want you to see what it is. And I want you to see the difference between an aggressive person and an assertive person. An assertive person will allow you to also be assertive, in fact, and assertive person will appreciate if you are more assertive assertive communicators get frustrated with passive communicators because we want you to just be honest, tell me what you actually think I can take it. I want to have an honest conversation. Aggressive communicators do not want an honest conversation. They want it to be my way or the highway. Does that make sense? So you need to see where you fit in this and you need to understand what kind of communicator you are and work on it. Now a passive aggressive communicator, this is a whole another boat because a passive aggressive person is someone who's really unclear or indirect in their communication. So outwardly, it looks like they're going along with it. They're cooperating, everything's fine, but inwardly, they feel a lot of resentment. And this is even worse than being passive because this passive aggressive comes out later. Right? This I would see this now a women that I know it's all women who are listening to this. So I'm going to call you out if you're passive aggressive. Here's what this looks like. Your husband has an opinion. He is trying to have a conversation with you. He's an assertive communicator. You are saying? Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I get it. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, you're right. Yep, you're right. Yep. But inside you're like, yep, you're always right. You're an ass. This is so not happening. And then you walk away from the conversation and you're pissed off. If you walk away because you're pissed off. Girl you got to check in with yourself because Are you being passive aggressive? And then that passive aggressiveness comes out later you start blaming him, you start doing the you always in the you Nevers, you start getting mad at every little thing he does. That's passive aggressive. being dishonest. You are being dishonest. You are just going along with it. Yeah, whatever you say, Uh huh. That sounds good. But inside, you're like eff that you suck. I hate this. I hate you. Okay, like, that's a little dramatic, but you get the idea. That's not going to work. So you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself here. And again, I want to reiterate, if you're dealing with an aggressive communicator, you need to end that communication and the conversation. It's not going to go anywhere. Aggressive communicators are not having a two sided conversation with you. 

If the conversation gets heated, let's say two assertive people are having a conversation and it gets a little heated. It's okay to set some bad boundaries, it's okay to be like, you know what, I don't know that this is going where we want it to go, can we come back to this later, go into your separate corners, cool off, get clear again on exactly what you intended outcomes are and what you're bringing to the table, and then come back to the conversation. So you can say stuff like, I'm just not really comfortable with the direction this conversation is going. I think it's getting hard for us to have a productive dialogue. We're both getting a little bit upset. Let's just revisit this later, right? That's honest, assertive communication. It seems like this isn't going anywhere. Right. Now. Can we come back to this? My husband and I, we don't really argue, I can't think of any times that we've really argued. Now. That's not to say that we don't disagree. That's not to say that we don't get mad or frustrated at each at each other, we absolutely do. But we don't argue, because what we do every single time is I feel myself getting mad, I feel myself getting frustrated, and he feels the same. And we just separate. We separate, we do all our pre communication work, we get real clear on exactly what's going on for us what triggered us why why this is happening, how I'm feeling. And then we come back together, and we have an actual conversation about it. I know it sounds crazy. But that's how this works. I hope that's how that works in your marriage. But if it's not, try it, try to not have an argument in the moment in the heated emotional moment, separate, do your pre work, and then come back. So you can have an actual conversation about the thing that was upsetting you, that's going to be so much more productive for you

Skill number five is understanding that sometimes the other person doesn't want to talk about it. So I saw this as well with a lot of my couples. And I'm going to call women out because this is how it usually went was the wife would like prod, prod, prod, prod, prod, why don't you want to talk about why don't you want to talk about I want to talk about it, I want to talk about it, I want to talk about it. And the husband was just like, Yo, I need a minute. Like I need to process this process this for a second. It wasn't because they were trying to avoid a conversation. It wasn't because they were trying to be mean or rude or discount how their wife was feeling. The dudes process stuff differently. Sometimes it takes them longer, they have different thoughts than you do about stuff. And they need a minute. And if they ask for a minute, so they can process, give it to them. Likewise, you can do the same if you need a minute to process and you don't want to jump into this heated conversation that you know is going to turn into an argument, stop it, cut it off, take a minute, figure it out and then come back. Sometimes the other person doesn't want to have a talk about it. So you need to check your intentions coming into this, how are you coming across to them? Right? If you're the wife who's like, I need to talk about I want Why don't you wanna talk about we need to talk about it, we need to if you're that, how are you coming across to your spouse? Is that someone that your spouse is going to want to have a conversation with? The answer is no. Because he knows he's just going to get blamed and blamed and indicted for things that he wasn't intending to do. Okay? Remember, we're assuming good intentions, when you're coming across like that you are not assuming good intentions, and the other person is not going to want to have a talk with you. Sometimes, before we even start a conversation, before we even open our mouth, we are signaling to the other person through our eyes through our facial expression through our body language that I have already held core in my head, you are guilty. And I'm going to tell you all the reasons why you're guilty. Let's talk about it. That's not a conversation that anyone wants to walk into. So you need to really check in with yourself about how you are coming across your facial expressions, your eyes, your body language, are you coming into this conversation with? I'm about to burden you with all the things you've done wrong? Or are you coming into the conversation with an air of I just want to understand, I want to talk about this and understand I want you to understand me and I want to understand you that's a very different vibe, a very different energy and the other person can feel it. So you if you come in unspoken, you haven't even said anything yet. But if you come in with a vibe of you're guilty, and now we're going to talk about that other person shut down real fast, real fast, are not having a conversation. In fact, they might even go on the offensive, they might even start attacking you and start blaming you first because they don't want to get berated by you. Okay, so just be super clear about how you're coming into this thing. And even if you are a good communicator, even if you are practicing all of these skills that we've talked about, even if you're coming into it with really good energy, chances are the other person doesn't have those same skills. Chances are They don't understand all these things that you now have an understanding of. So you need to set the tone of openness and acceptance, right, they may be coming in with that blame energy, they may be coming in with that attack energy go on the offense energy, if you don't come in with that, if you come in with an energy of an a tone of acceptance, and openness, you might just bring down the level of the whole thing, like take the lead on that, if they're being aggressive, then leave, that's not going to work. But if that's calms them down to at least be on a more level playing field for conversation, then great set the tone, you now know what to do. So you do it, lead that conversation in that way. So if you want to have better communication with your spouse, model, better communication, do not put any of the skills or expectations on your spouse, they haven't listened to this, they don't know these things, you could share this with them, they might learn. 

But don't put unrealistic expectations on other people. Just because you think you're a good communicator, that's great, set the tone, set an example be a model, but have some grace for the other person and what they're going through. And the fact that they might not be able to get the words out the way they want to get them out communication takes two people actually communicating openly and honestly. And if you're not getting that, or you're not giving that it's not gonna work, I hope these skills were really helpful. These are the things that as a therapist, working with couples, these are the things I saw go wrong the most. And so now that you know these skills, you can help them go right more often. And if you want, share this with your spouse, share this with your friend, family, co worker, anyone that you feel like you'd want to improve communication with, share this with them, maybe it'll help maybe if you both are practicing these skills, we can come together on an equal playing field with equal good intentions with equal assertiveness and have a really productive conversation. Sometimes you can't, sometimes it's not going to go anywhere. Sometimes it's going to be a shit show. Sometimes, it's gonna be a failed conversation of failed communication. It's not necessarily anyone's fault, although you're probably going to want to make it the other person's fault. It's okay. It's okay. Sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes that conversation doesn't go the way you wanted it to go, you have to be okay with it going the way it goes. Does that make sense? You have to be able to let go sometimes have the expectation that you had, you can have intentions for a conversation but don't have expectations, right? Don't have expectations of an outcome. You can have intentions of an outcome. I can want it to go this way I can want us to reach some resolution. But if we don't you have to be okay with that too. Right? You have to be okay with letting some of that go sometimes. I hope that was really helpful. You guys if this was useful to you if these are some skills that you feel like you could work on which we all can all the time. Yes, I am a trained therapist. And yes, I work on these skills all the time because also I am a human person. feelings and emotions and thoughts that sometimes get away for me. If it was helpful to you share a screenshot of this podcast, put it up on your stories tag me in it. I would love to get some feedback, send me a message on Instagram, or hop into our community group@ and let me know your thoughts. All right, my friends until we talk again, Be Well. 

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