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Overcoming communication problems in relationships

Importance of relationships  

Relationships keep us connected and are an essential part of our lives, but they can sometimes be challenging. Communication issues can arise whether you’re in a romantic partnership, friendship, or family relationship. 

Positive relationships can give us a sense of belonging, improve our mental health and wellbeing, and provide support. While problematic relationships can make us feel sad, distressed, and lonely 

There will be times when we disagree with someone or are having communication issues in a relationship. If this is continually happening, it can become overwhelming and start to impact our mental health. So, how can we overcome communication problems in our relationships?  


Communication breakdown 

Poor communication can have a negative impact on our relationships. It can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and conflict. You may feel like you are not being heard or dismissed. If you feel uncomfortable expressing your thoughts, it can be hard to hear what the other person is saying.  

While disagreement is normal, how we handle it matters, as unresolved conflicts can erode a relationship and lead to resentment. It is important to make an effort to understand the other person’s perspective, even if you disagree. Good communication is a two-way street. 


Ways to improve communication 

Active listening 

Active listening is paying close attention to what someone is saying, observing non-verbal cues, and reflecting back their thoughts without judgment. When actively listening, you demonstrate a genuine interest in trying to understand their perspective. For more tips, read our blog on active listening 


Use “I” statements 

When communicating with someone, you can use the “I” statement. This strategy can be helpful when you want to express something difficult. It can take away the sense of criticism or blame and instead focus on how you are feeling. For example: 

  • Say, “I feel hurt when…” rather than “You always…” 
  • Say, “I feel frustrated when…” rather than “You didn’t do…” 
  • Say, “I felt worried when…” rather than “You should have…” 
  • Say, “I am sad that…” rather than “You never want to…” 


Establish and respect boundaries 

Healthy boundaries are like personal guidelines for how you want to be treated, and they can help you understand when someone might be overstepping. Boundaries are not about controlling others; they are about clearly communicating your needs and limits. When people respect your boundaries, you feel valued and heard. On the other hand, if boundaries are crossed, you might feel frustrated, stressed or anxious 

Clearly and politely communicating your boundaries and respecting other people’s boundaries can improve relationships. Examples of boundaries include limiting your time spent with extended family, not lending money to friends, having alone time, and limiting unsolicited advice.  


Keep calm 

Avoid raising your voice or interrupting during a conversation. If you feel your frustration and stress rising, ask to take a break. To cool down, you can try some simple breathing exercises or do something physical, such as a walk. Think about how you are feeling and what is making you frustrated and consider how you can manage the situation better. For example, is there a way to find a compromise, or can you accept and value your differences? 


Good communication is key to healthy relationships. And healthy relationships can improve our mental health. Remember, communication is a skill that can be developed and improved. By actively listening, using “I” statements, setting and respecting boundaries, and staying calm during conversations, we can handle disagreements and overcome communication problems in our relationships. These practices help us understand each other better and keep our relationships strong and supportive.


If you are struggling, our CAREinMIND counsellors are here to help 24/7. Call 1300 096 269 or click the floating chat button on the right. The service is free for people in north, western and central Melbourne. 


Please note that domestic and family violence is never acceptable in any relationship. No one has the right to hurt you or make you live in fear. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. If you are in danger, call 000.