Excellent relationship communication is at the root of all great relationships and poor communication is the cause of many breakups. Today, I want to share some of the best keys to great relationship communication.
Relationship Communication and Appreciation
One of the most powerful tools you can use in your relationship shouldn’t even need a mention – appreciation.
It’s cliché to say that women want appreciation. Comedians have joked about it for years, but men want to be appreciated too and it’s often overlooked.
It’s crazy if you think about it. Why wouldn’t a man want to be appreciated for something he does? He’s human, just like you.
And I’m not talking about the fluffy meaningless appreciation that seems to be big in our culture today. I’m talking about genuine appreciation. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
Your families are coming over for a meet and greet. Now that you and your guy are serious about one another, you want your families to get to know one another. Without being asked, your guy brings home a beautiful bouquet for the table and offers to help get your home ready.
It’s easy to take these actions for granted, but instead, be sure to let him know how much you appreciate the flowers and his help. While a simple thank you might suffice, go a step further and spell it out, “Gregg I appreciate your help tonight, and the flowers are beautiful! Thank you.”
See? How hard was that? Here’s another quick one.
To avoid painting fees, you need to repaint your apartment before moving in with your boyfriend. While you thought you had a full day of painting alone ahead of you, your boyfriend surprises you by showing up with his paint supplies in hand, ready to help.
Be sure to tell him you appreciate his help! He could be off watching football with his friends, but he chose to help you instead.
Why is Appreciation Awkward?
“Surely he knows I appreciate what he does.” I bet you’ve said this to yourself a few times before, right? It’s an excuse for not showing your appreciation or gratitude for something your guy does for you.
In a 2018 University of Chicago study, researchers evaluated why we’re all so reluctant to show our appreciation.
The researchers cited what they called egocentric bias. The best way to describe it is with their examples:
- You think you’re happier when you spend money on yourself, but you’re happier when you spend it on others
- You think talking to a stranger will be unpleasant, but most people report those exchanges are positive
- When introverts are instructed to pretend they’re extroverted in a social situation, they later report that they enjoyed the experience more than those who remained introverted during the same experience
What Does it Mean?
The egocentric bias means we underestimate the positive value of social interactions. When it comes to appreciation, the bias is two-fold.
First, since our gratitude is obvious to us, we assume everyone knows we’re grateful and therefore don’t need to express it. Psychologists call this the curse of knowledge. If we know something, we assume others know it as well.
Expressing gratitude is also challenging because it can be an uncomfortable emotion and one we might not be familiar with. You may struggle to find the right words to express exactly what you’re feeling. Because you’re uncomfortable, you assume the other person is as well.
What this really boils down to is that you’re afraid you’ll say the wrong thing or upset the other person, so you avoid saying anything.
In the University of Chicago experiment, participants were asked to write a letter of gratitude to someone who’d made an impact in their lives.
Immediately after they wrote the letters, they were asked questions about their mood, how they felt after writing the letter, and how they expected the person receiving the letter to feel when they got it.
Then, the researchers contacted the recipients of the letters.
After writing and sending the letter, the participants indicated that their mood was improved and that expressing gratitude had been a positive experience. However, they underestimated how surprised the recipients would be.
When asked, the recipients of the letters were pleasantly surprised and happy to have received the letters and by the content of the letters. They didn’t realize the impact of their actions on the person who wrote the letter and were pleasantly surprised to discover it.
While the letter writers felt uncomfortable writing the letters, the letter recipients were deeply touched by the expression of gratitude.
What’s in it For You?
The lesson you can draw from this study is not to assume that just because you might feel a little uncomfortable in expressing your gratitude doesn’t mean the person receiving it will feel the same way. What the recipient of your gratitude appreciates isn’t the words you use but the warmth and genuine appreciation you express.
Don’t get stuck in wanting to use the perfect words. Just go for it!
These same lessons apply to other uncomfortable areas of your life like asking a guy out on a date or expressing your condolences. People remember your emotions and warmth more than they remember whether you used exactly the right words.
Relationship Communication | Taking Things for Granted
It’s so easy to take things in your life for granted. You just expect your mother to call and check on you once a week or so, your sister to step in when you need help, and your boyfriend to pitch in with the chores.
We don’t often see the value of something until it’s taken away. We take great health for granted until we experience a serious illness, and we take mom calling once a week to check on us for granted until she passes and leaves a gaping hole in our lives. Doing the dishes by yourself after a breakup makes you not only miss your ex but appreciate the time you spent together.
If health improves or your ex decides to return, you temporarily experience a period of appreciation, but soon, it’s gone again.
While desensitization helps you overcome fears, it also makes you oblivious to things you take for granted. You become accustomed to having your ex around to help and it isn’t unique anymore. The newness of something becomes the ordinary.
If you make a conscious effort to appreciate those things you’ve taken for granted in the past, you’ll not only find your relationship communication is improved and you’re happier.
The Value of Appreciation
When you show appreciation, you’re telling someone they have value in your life. Whether you’re thanking your best friend for bringing you soup when you were ill or your boyfriend for mowing the lawn, you’re saying not only thank you but that you value their contribution to your life.
This is huge in relationship communication because it’s something so simple but meaningful. Nobody wants to be taken for granted and everyone wants to feel special.
A man often shows his love through the things he does for you, rather than with words. Therefore, when you take the time to acknowledge his effort, you’re receiving his gift of love.
Science tells us that when you express your appreciation to your partner, your relationship is stronger and more likely to last. It indicates a higher level of commitment to one another. It also makes you both more likely to share your vulnerabilities and concerns.
Relationship Communication | Making Appreciation Easier
Since we’ve previously established that showing appreciation can be difficult for some, there are some steps you can take to make it easier. There’s a formula of sorts you can try.
First, name the thing or strength you appreciate, “I love how creative you are in the kitchen.”
You’re identifying a strength this person has, something they’re good at.
Next, justify or clarify your statement. It helps give heft to your statement and goes something like this, “Your unique spin on Paella the other night and the way you add flavor to your meals helps me enjoy eating.”
Lastly, you can express your appreciation, like this, “I really value your cooking ability and your willingness to help with meals. It takes a huge load off and it’s fun to cook with you.”
Sometimes, you can express your appreciation in other ways, like baking his favorite cookies or preparing his favorite meal. You can bring home his favorite beer or get him tickets to a favorite sporting event.
Relationship communication doesn’t always need to be verbal. Sometimes non-verbal communication has just as much, if not more power, depending on what you do and how you deliver it.
Now you’ve read this whole article on relationship communication and appreciation and you’re gung-ho. You want to show your guy all kinds of appreciation.
Just like anything else, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. There are two important things to remember.
The first is not to use appreciation too often. If it happens every day or multiple times a day, it loses its meaning.
The second is to be genuine. Don’t say you appreciate him for something if you don’t. When he does something that you truly appreciate, let him know. It’s fine to say thank you for the things he does when he does them, but it’s also a great step from time to time to go the extra mile and show true appreciation.
Take Control of Your Relationship by Understanding Men | The Entire Series
The remaining twelve articles in this series are linked below. Each covers a nuance of being male that many women don’t understand. They highlight the differences between men and women and hopefully help you enjoy a successful relationship.
Once you find true love, the key is keeping it! In my best-seller, Pennies in the Jar: How to Keep a Man for Life, you'll learn many things you and your guy can do to maintain a healthy, happy relationship. The pennies you put in the jar are shared memories. You add pennies when you do things together like exploring a quaint little town nearby or relaxing in a coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon. They're added when you make a game out of grocery shopping or have a cooking contest for dinner.
Learn how to put pennies in the jar, how to communicate effectively and how to fight fair, all inside this great book!
To learn more about it, click here. To purchase the book, click one of the buttons below.