How to Improve Communication in Relationships: 7 Essential Skills

Good communication is the key when it comes to positive social interaction. But what does a healthy conversation look like? And how can you improve communication in a romantic relationship? Read on for a summary of some important models and theories in the field of communication.

The Importance of Communication

“It is the encounters with people that make life worth living.” Guy de Maupassant

We all have a strong need for connectivity and belonging. This is why positive social interactions increase our subjective well-being and provide greater life satisfaction (Lyubomirsky, 2008). Nursing social relationships enhance happiness because spending time with friends or colleagues builds positive emotions, a key component of happiness (Fredrickson & Joiner, 2002).

Yes, social relationships are vital for a happy and fulfilling life. Interactions can be verbal or nonverbal; we can even connect with each other through a smile. A vital element of positive social interaction, however, is good communication. But what does that signify?

What is Healthy Communication?

“All real living is meeting.” Martin Buber

A typical communication model includes a sender, a receiver and a (verbal or nonverbal) message which is encoded by the sender and decoded by the receiver. It also includes feedback, which is the response of the receiver to the message as well as noise, which is anything that can disrupt communication.

Encoding refers to the sender transforming a thought into a communicable message. The receiver, on the other hand interprets what he receives as the message (both verbal and nonverbal parts). So much for the theory. As you can imagine, a lot happens in between, as no message is ever decoded without a bias.

The way we decode a message is never the objective reality. We all have our own filters and explanatory styles which paint the picture of the world as we see it. What makes the process of communication even more complex is the fact that the message of the sender is hardly ever just factual information.

“We speak not only to tell other people what we think, but to tell ourselves what we think. Speech is a part of thought.” Oliver Sacks

In his Four-Sides model of communication, Friedemann Schulz von Thun (1981) po