Many people feel that they need no help in how to improve communication skills until they are faced with a looming relationship problem. Not only verbal, but nonverbal communication is important as well because both contribute to helping Jewish couples understand one another better. Any long-term successful Jewish marriage involves knowing how to communicate well.
Although we all think of communication as primarily based in talking, the first tip for how to improve communication skills is to be a good listener. This can be more challenging than it seems, particularly when you are in the midst of a heated argument. All too often we get caught up in thinking about what we want to say, and are so busy formulating our side of the story in our head that we are not hearing what our partner is saying. Take the time to stop and fully listen, and only then respond to what your partner has said.
Nonverbal communication often says more about how we are feeling than hours’ worth of talking. At a young friend’s bar mitzvah I noticed his aunt and uncle sitting together, yet they may has well been in different countries. They had their legs crossed facing away from each other, and both had their arms folded. There was certainly a wealth of nonverbal communication being expressed there, and sure enough, not a month later I heard they were getting divorced. Some lessons in how to improve communication skills might have helped to save the marriage.
The second step in how to improve communication skills is to express how we feel without blaming our partner. Communication is meant to be a tool used to solve problems in the relationship, not a means by which to beat your spouse over the head with their transgressions. Say how you feel in a way that is respectful of your partner. Don’t judge or criticize them for the feelings they express, only show your partner that you have heard them. You can use some nonverbal communication as well, which can help to get your point across. Be sure to make good eye contact (without staring your partner down), lean toward them when you speak or perhaps touch their arm. This indicates that you have a true desire to connect with your partner and are not just using them as a vent for your anger.
Perhaps one of the most important lessons to learn if you want to know how to improve communication skills is knowing how to apologise. And by this it doesn’t mean that you necessarily automatically “lose” your argument, but it indicates to your partner that you understand your part in what they are experiencing and that you care about their needs. Conversely, an apology does not mean that you will always get your way, but communicating your feelings and needs effectively and then apologizing and letting go of the argument is what will maintain a healthy Jewish marriage.