Communication Skills

Good communication is essential for a healthy romantic relationship.

In order to work toward getting what we need in a relationship, and provide our partner with what they need, we have to be able to express ourselves clearly.” –  Jackson, 28

The first section of the course is about communication. All relationships have ups and downs, but effective communication can make it easier to deal with challenges and build a stronger and healthier connection.

The benefits of good communication cannot be overstated. It not only helps to avoid misunderstandings, but also helps:

  • Strengthen mutual respect
  • Take the guesswork out of knowing what each other wants and needs
  • Build trust
  • Partners to support each other
  • Cultivate love between partners

We’ve divided our practical tips on communication into four parts:

  1. Learning to Listen
  2. Face-to-Face for Important Conversations
  3. Keeping it Fun
  4. Being Open, Honest, Direct, and Respectful

Let’s get started on the first three below.

1. Learning to Listen

Feeling heard and understood by those close to us is a basic human need. One of the most important aspects of communication isn’t about what we say, it’s about what we do – listen. 

Listening to our partners shows respect and (without even saying a word) signals that we are interested in them and what they have to say. 

If we don’t listen to what each other wants and needs, we’re more likely to miss the mark, which can lead to frustration, feeling neglected, and feeling as if we don’t matter to the other person. 

Sometimes we are actually listening to our partners, but it doesn’t come across as if we are. So, we want to work on active listening – that is, listening carefully and intentionally in order to show we truly care about our partner and what they have to say.

Active vs Passive Listening

Active listening is when we demonstrate to the speaker that we understand and are engaged in what they are saying. This is in contrast to passive listening, where the listener doesn’t provide signals of paying attention to the person speaking (even if we are thinking about what our partner is saying in our head). 

A lot of communication has to do with our body language, and how our partners perceive us. Our partners can’t tell if we’re listening if our bodies are not communicating that to them. This makes it more likely for them to think we simply are not listening at all. Practicing active listening also helps us to remember what we hear, so we’re less likely to forget to follow up on things later.

How To Practice Active Listening

The following are some practical tips to let our partners know we are paying attention. 

Make use of our body language

  • Maintaining eye contact: One way that we can show our partners that we’re listening is to simply look at them more often. The rule of thumb is to maintain our gaze for 3-5 seconds at a time and for just over half the conversation (50%-70% of the time). Eye contact also helps to create attraction.[1]
  • Orienting our entire body toward our partner: Leaning in to have our upper body slightly angled toward our partner and using gestures (like head nodding).    
  • Relaxing our posture: It’s fairly common for guys to cross their arms when engaged in a conversation, but this can create a barrier between us and our partner (literally closing ourselves off from the other person). Try to have an open, relaxed posture with arms uncrossed. 
  • Avoiding looking down at our partner: Sitting so that you’re at the same level as your partner creates a less intimidating atmosphere. If your partner is sitting and you are standing, it can make them feel as though you are looking down at them (not as an equal).

Use simple and easy encouragers

Using  “uh-huh”, “mmm”, and “yeah”  while our partners are speaking demonstrates that we’re following along (while not interrupting).

Ask open-ended questions

This means asking our partner to elaborate and help us better understand a situation, or their side of an issue. Try to avoid asking questions that can be responded to with one word answers.

  • For example, if Ben asks Jenna “Did you have a good day at work?” her answer would be “yes” or “no”. But, if he says “What did you get up to at work today?” it would draw out a much longer response, letting Jenny know Ben is really interested in her day. 

Summarize and reflect 

Lastly, we can show someone that we’re listening by summarizing what they said in our own words. 

  • For example, Jenna says “I’m feeling nervous because my boss expects me to use the new video conferencing system for our team meeting next week, but it’s really complicated .” A good response would be “It sounds like needing to learn a new and complicated conferencing system so quickly is really stressing you out. Maybe we can ask my brother for some tips. He got a similar system at his work a couple of months ago.”

2. Face-to-Face for Important Conversations

In this day and age, we often find ourselves behind some type of electronic device or platform when having conversations, including with our romantic partner. That’s fine for light conversation, however, when we’re having a serious conversation with our partner, it’s best to do it in person. 

Even if you both prefer texting, emotions and intentions don’t always come across clearly through texts. Sometimes what we meant to say can be misinterpreted, causing unnecessary arguments. If something more serious comes up through text, it can be a good idea to recap things the next time you see your partner in person.

3. Engage in Fun Banter

Sometimes (especially if we’re married or living with our partner), we can get caught up in all the serious stuff like finances or kids. But taking a break from that and having light-hearted conversations or sharing funny stories can really make a difference in our relationships. Talk about the things you both enjoy and share some laughs together. Even something as simple as sending a funny meme can help keep things playful and positive, especially during stressful times.

This one may sound simple, but saying nice things about your partner (e.g., complimenting their outfit, congratulating them on achieving a goal, or simply letting them know how much they mean to you) can go a long way to improving your bond.

While implementing these skills may take some time and practice, they can significantly improve the quality of our relationships. 

The next page will take us through a more structured approach to express our wants and needs more clearly.


  1. Jarick, M., & Bencic, R. (2019). Eye contact is a two-way street: Arousal is elicited by the sending and receiving of eye gaze information. Frontiers in Psychology, 10.


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Men's Health Week 2024