Bridge the gap: Balancing romantic communication styles

Learn the art of balancing diverse communication styles for stronger relationships. Expert tips to bridge gaps and foster effective connections.

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Effective communication is essential to any strong relationship, and how different communication styles in relationships can make or break its success. Understanding your and your partner’s communication styles is key to creating a healthy, balanced relationship. 1

Your communication style can significantly impact how your partner feels and the overall environment of your relationship. Let’s explore different communication styles in relationships and how to balance them for optimal success.

Want more fulfilling relationships in your life? Discover how communication & attachment styles shape your relationship dynamics.

The impact of unbalanced communication

The impact of unbalanced communication

When two partners’ communication styles are misaligned, it leads to misunderstandings and resentment. One partner may take longer to communicate or express their emotions, while the other may be more direct and open.

This misalignment can often lead to conflict and misunderstanding. For instance, the partner communicating emotions more directly might perceive the other’s slower, more reflective communication style as dismissive or uncaring. 2

Conversely, the more reflective partner may feel overwhelmed or pressured by the direct communicator’s eagerness to express feelings. These divergent interpretations can snowball into larger disputes, where the core issue is not the subject of the argument but rather, the differing communication styles.

With time, this can cause a rift between you and your, causing resentment and dissatisfaction in the relationship. Understanding and addressing these communication style differences is crucial for maintaining a healthy and harmonious relationship.

Understanding the four communication styles

If you and your partner are struggling with communication, it’s vital first to understand the underlying differences in your communication styles. There are four primary types of communication: passive, assertive, aggressive, and passive-aggressive.

  1. Passive: With this communication style, you may need more time to express emotions or opinions. You avoid confrontation and prioritize harmony over directness.
  2. Assertive: This is a direct and balanced approach to communication that values honesty, openness, and mutual respect. It prioritizes expressing emotions in an open yet respectful manner.
  3. Aggressive: This style focuses on conveying your message while disregarding the opinions of others. You may be overly direct or demanding, relying on emotional manipulation and coercion to get your way.
  4. Passive-aggressive: This is a blend of passive and aggressive communication styles, relying on covert tactics such as sarcasm or subtle criticism to make your point.

It’s important to note that neither style is inherently better than the other — instead, it’s about understanding where differences exist and working to create a balanced dynamic.

Effective communication is key! Explore the communication four styles in relationships and master the art of adapting for healthier connections.

9 ways to balance different communication styles

9 ways to balance different communication styles

Once you have identified the primary differences in your and your partner’s communication styles, you can start to recognize the misalignments and work to create balance. Here are nine tips on how to do so:

1. Embrace active listening techniques

Active listening is the art of listening attentively to your partner and responding in an engaged, understanding manner. When the other person speaks, focus on what they are saying, ask clarifying questions, and try to understand their perspective. 3

When your partner knows you are genuinely interested in what they say, they’ll be more likely to have an open dialogue and express themselves honestly. This can create a strong foundation for successful communication between you and your partner. 4

Active listening techniques are essential when dating an ENFP. Unveil these expert tips on how to date an ENFP personality type.

2. Be mindful of your language

The way you phrase things can have a big impact on how your partner responds. Before speaking, take a few moments to think about your words and consider whether they will appear aggressive or dismissive.

Try using “I” statements rather than “you” when expressing yourself. For example, instead of saying, “You never listen to me”, you might say, “I feel as though I’m not being heard”.

“I” statements are more likely to be received as constructive and non-judgmental, further aiding in understanding. 5

3. Find common ground in communication patterns

Are you and your partner both direct communicators? Or perhaps you’re both more likely to be passive in expressing emotions. Identifying areas of agreement can help create a common understanding and foster mutual respect.

For instance, if you’re both on the same page about keeping conversations brief and to the point, that can be used as an opportunity to grow closer as a couple.

On the other hand, if you’re both shy in expressing your feelings, try to push yourself to be more open and honest with each other — it might make all the difference.

Finding common ground is possible, even for opposite personalities in a relationship. Learn how couples navigate differences and thrive together.

4. Set aside time for discussions

Rather than trying to have meaningful conversations on the fly or while multitasking, schedule dedicated time when both of you can discuss any issues or concerns. This creates a more relaxed environment that encourages open dialogue and attentive listening.

In addition, make sure to put away all distractions (such as cell phones or laptops) so you can focus on the conversation. Technology can be a major barrier to meaningful communication, so ensure you’re present and engaged. 6

5. Employ effective feedback and constructive criticism

When making a point or expressing an opinion, give your partner evidence-based feedback and constructive criticism. This will help you avoid misunderstandings and work together to reach mutually beneficial solutions. 7

Rather than simply stating what you think, give your partner examples of why something should be done in a certain way or how it might benefit the relationship. Try to remain open to their thoughts and opinions to reach an agreement.

6. Develop communication flexibility and versatility

You won’t be able to meet each other eye-to-eye all the time, and that’s ok. Developing communication flexibility will help you understand each other better and reach agreements more easily.

Be willing to adjust your communication approach depending on the situation and be open to learning from each other’s style. This will make it much easier for you both to relate and compromise. 8

Flexibility in attachment styles can shape intimacy in relationships. Explore how understanding and adapting attachment styles deepens love.

7. Utilize humor as a vehicle for connection

Humor can be one of the best tools for balancing different communication styles. It helps to lighten the mood and encourages openness. 9

Try to think of a funny story or joke that might help break through any initial tension and get the conversation rolling. Just make sure it’s appropriate and inoffensive — nothing too off-color!

8. Recognize nonverbal communication

Body language, facial expressions, and gestures often speak louder than words. So, don’t forget to pay attention to these subtle cues, as they can provide invaluable insight into how the other person is feeling. 10

For example, if your partner crosses their arms when you’re speaking, it could mean they feel defensive or closed off. If this is the case, take a step back and try to be understanding of their needs.

9. Practice patience

Maintaining a healthy and balanced relationship is learning to be patient with your partner, especially in times of disagreement or tension. Give each other space to process and think, and acknowledge that it might take time for both of you to resolve.

Be willing to forgive mistakes — no two people will ever have the same communication style, so disagreements are inevitable. The important thing is always to remain respectful and strive toward understanding. 11

Balancing communication in relationships can be tricky, but it’s essential for building strong and lasting connections. Discover other communication tips to help you maintain a strong connection with those you love.

  1. De Netto, P. M., Quek, K. F., & Golden, K. J. (2021). Communication, the Heart of a Relationship: Examining Capitalization, Accommodation, and Self-Construal on Relationship Satisfaction. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 767908. ↩︎

  2. Overall, N. C., & McNulty, J. K. (2017). What Type of Communication during Conflict is Beneficial for Intimate Relationships?. Current opinion in psychology, 13, 1–5. ↩︎

  3. Weger, H., Bell, G. C., Minei, E., & Robinson, M. J. (2014). The Relative Effectiveness of Active Listening in Initial Interactions. International Journal of Listening, 28(1), 13–31. ↩︎

  4. Reis, H. T., & Shaver, P. (1988). Intimacy as an interpersonal process. In S. Duck, D. F. Hay, S. E. Hobfoll, W. Ickes, & B. M. Montgomery (Eds.), Handbook of personal relationships: Theory, research and interventions (pp. 367–389). Oxford, UK: Wiley. ↩︎

  5. Biesen, J. N., Schooler, D. E., & Smith, D. A. (2016). What a difference a pronoun makes: I/We versus you/me and worried couples’ perceptions of their interaction quality. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 35(2), 180-205. ↩︎

  6. Amichai-Hamburger, Y., & Etgar, S. (2016). Intimacy and smartphone multitasking—a new oxymoron?. Psychological reports, 119(3), 826-838. ↩︎

  7. Klein, S., Renshaw, K. D., & Curby, T. W. (2016). Emotion Regulation and Perceptions of Hostile and Constructive Criticism in Romantic Relationships. Behavior Therapy, 47(2), 143–154. ↩︎

  8. Reese-Weber, M., & Bartle-Haring, S. (1998). Conflict Resolution Styles in Family Subsystems and Adolescent Romantic Relationships. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 27(6), 735–752. ↩︎

  9. Driver, J. L., & Gottman, J. M. (2004). Daily marital interactions and positive affect during marital conflict among newlywed couples. Family Process, 43(3), 301-314. ↩︎

  10. Park, S. G., & Park, K. H. (2018). Correlation between nonverbal communication and objective structured clinical examination score in medical students. Korean journal of medical education, 30(3), 199–208. ↩︎

  11. Fincham, F. D. (2009). Prosocial Motives, Emotions, and Behavior: The Better Angels of our Nature. ↩︎

Author picture of Amy Clark
Relationship Expert

Amy Clark

Amy Clark is a freelance writer who writes about relationships, marriage, and family. She has been happily married for over ten years and loves her husband and three kids. Before …

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