The Key to Healthy Relationships is Effective Communication

Author: Dr. Julie. Sorenson, DMFT, MA, LPC

Effective Communication is Essential in All Relationships

As a therapist, one of the things that I often hear is my person wasn’t listening to what I was saying. Communication is important in all relationships, and it can be what causes the breakdown of any relationship. It is important to be able to express what it is that you are saying but also to ensure the other person understands what is being said. Oftentimes friendships or relationships end or have turmoil due to ineffective communication, but the people in the relationship may not always recognize that their communication style was at the root of the problem. One of the things that I say often during a session is “the problem isn’t always the problem; the problem is bigger than the problem.” The meaning of that quote is sometimes when someone is struggling with something, they may not know the root of the problem they may believe it is the surface stuff and sometimes it may be. However, when using effective communication, together people can get to the root of the problem and then work on how to problem solve to help in resolving the problem. Effective communication takes work and practice.

Remember, There is No One Size Fits All In Effective Communication

Relationships can be complex, therefore how we communicate needs to be a top priority in our day-to-day lives. Breakdowns in communication can lead to anger, resentment, divorce, or violence. Especially if the communication breakdown happens often and one or both parties don’t feel heard. There is not one way to communicate, it is important when communicating to think about the audience. Here are a few things to think about when communicating with another person:

  • What is their education level?


  • What triggers are you aware they may have?


  • How close is our relationship?


  • What are boundaries for yourself or the other person?


  • Are both parties in a space to discuss the issue?


  • Is there active listening taking place?


  • Do both parties feel safe to express their truest thoughts and feelings?

Effective Communication Can Be Accomplished In a Few Different Ways

Improving your communication style can help to preserve your daily relationships. It can also allow for more effective ways to resolve problems and possibly avoid conflict. However, conflict may arise but when using effective communication, you will be able to express yourself without feeling like you need to be on the defense. Learning a few simple skills can enhance your life and promote healthier, stronger relationships. Here are a few suggestions for improving your communication.


  • Is the person you are speaking to paying attention by using eye contact to let you know they are present and in the moment? If not, request they provide you with eye contact and put away any distractions during the conversation.

  • It is important to reframe from yelling during the conversation.

  • Establish verbal and nonverbal cues to determine how the message is being sent and received. It is okay to express your emotions. If you are pleased or happy with something that is said, make sure that your nonverbal cues match the emotions. You can do this by using an appropriate tone of voice or facial expressions to match what you are saying. The same goes for if you are angry. You can express anger without yelling, just makes sure your verbal and nonverbal cues match whatever emotion you are feeling.

  • Say what you mean and mean what you say. Take a deep breath if needed but be direct and honest in your conversation. If you don’t know how to answer something then say just that. You don’t always need the answers, you can say “I am not sure, I will have to get back to you.”

  • Paraphrase: “So what I am hearing you say is…” the other person then will have an opportunity to say, “yes that is what I am saying” or “no, that isn’t what I meant.”

  • Ask for feedback from the other person on what you have said, or if they have any suggestions to add.


Using these communication suggestions can assist you in improving your daily communication. You may notice that because you are using effective communication your relationship may be enhanced. Relationships are constantly evolving, and our communication with those we love should evolve too, to meet the needs of both parties. How we receive information is just as important as how we share it. Making sure that when receiving the information, you are letting the other person know what you heard and how you felt about what was said. Expressing your emotions and feelings is key to healthy and effective communication. Never be afraid to say how you feel or to tell someone that you feel heard. At the end of the day, we all just want to feel heard and listened to.

Don’t Hesitate to Reach Out to A Local Therapist.

If you are struggling with communication it is okay to ask a professional for help. Many therapists can help you on your communication journey. They can provide you with tools to assist you in having more effective communication which in turn can allow you to feel more connected in your relationships.

rear view of female counselor taking notes in clipboard on therapy session of couple

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