Tips on How to Communicate Effectively in Relationships
Dating & Relationships

Tips on How to Communicate Effectively in Relationships

Yancy Chery
Concordia University

Have you ever struggled to communicate your desires and intentions to someone? I know I have. It can feel awkward and uncomfortable, but it's so important to understand what we want and communicate it. In this article, we'll explore tools to advocate for your desires and intentions in relationships. Let’s dive in!


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Effective communication is a vital component in building strong and healthy relationships. It involves expressing your desires and intentions in a clear and honest manner, while also taking the time to understand and validate the other person's perspective. This can foster deeper connections in both friendships and romantic relationships and also aid in filtering potential partners while dating. Being honest and direct can help avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings down the line. I’ve narrowed down 3 components and outlined tools to help you navigate this journey.


1. Reflecting and knowing what you want

It's always good to know what you want in order to communicate it effectively. And it's totally okay if those desires change over time! Take some time to think about what you want and what your intentions are for your current situation. Don't feel bad if it's different from what you wanted before. It's all about being honest with yourself and everyone involved.


To help you navigate this, here are some questions you can ask yourself. Take the ones you love and feel free to add your own:  


For friendships:

  • What do I value in a friendship?
  • Do I feel good when I am around (Anne)?
  • How much time and effort can I currently invest in my friendships?
  • Does this align with what they are asking of me?
  • Knowing that a sole person cannot fulfill all my needs, am I satisfied and happy with the support and love/care/joy they are bringing into my life?
  • Knowing that I cannot fulfill all the needs of someone, has my friend shared disappointment in the way I show up for them?


For sexual encounters:

  • What are my boundaries and limits?
  • What protection method would I like to use?
  • Do I strictly want to have sex with this person?
  • Would I like to pursue something more?
  • How would I feel if a friend with benefits situation develops into romantic attraction?


For dating/relationships:

  • What kind of relationship am I looking for?
  • What are my non-negotiable in a relationship? (open communication, honesty, humor, ambition, similar values, religious beliefs, etc.)
  • What are my dealbreakers?
  • How do I feel most seen, loved and appreciated? (Try the 5-love languages test. This can help you understand yourself better)


2. Communicating your intentions

Once you've identified your needs, it is a good time to initiate the conversation about your desires and intentions. Communication is something I had to work on because it was not a given. Through the years, I noticed that I was not fully honest with myself in what I sought in friendships and even in (potential) romantic partnerships. My first few attempts felt uncomfortable and frankly weird: why do I have to tell these things, people should just know this. Through the years, I’ve come to understand how important this is, learned how to communicate more effectively and accept differences of opinion.


My favorite approach for communicating my desires and intentions is using “I” statements.

Example 1: you are talking to your friend about your previous disagreement.

  • “During our argument when you told me X, I felt misunderstood, like I was a bad friend and I was sad.”


Example 2: you are talking to your partner about prevention measures before having sex:

  • “I’m excited by the idea of us having sex, and I would love for us to talk about condoms”
  • “I would love it if we can go to a testing clinic together before having sex”
  • “I am not interested in unprotected sex”
  • “I would be intrigued to try watching ethical porn together. How would you feel about this? What are your boundaries? My boundaries are X, Y & Z”  


Example 3: you have been dating this person. You would like to know their intentions and set yours. Initiating the conversation with a question and actively listening* to their perspective is a great way to proceed. *Don’t worry, I’ll give you tips about this in the next section.


  • “What are you looking for in a partner?”
  • “What are your views on relationships?”
  • “What type of relationship are you looking for?”
    Examples: marriage, a friend with benefits, monogamous relationship, open relationship, etc.


  • “I am currently not looking for a committed relationship. I am interested in having a platonic friendship”
  • “I would love to build a relationship with a partner with whom we can communicate openly”


This approach helps to remove blame from the equation. It is a moment where you can express your feelings, desires and needs.


3. Active listening is a two-way street

I am sure you have either experienced or heard: “You’re listening to reply”. Well, active listening is the opposite of this. It is the act of actively listening to the other person, while understanding and validating their point of view. This is something I have personally struggled with in relationships, especially during conflict. There have been times when, instead of listening to what the person’s concern was, I would rebuttal with things they have done that hurt me. Luckily, I learned to empathetically listen with the Imago Dialogue technique. The Imago Dialogue technique is a great way to engage when practicing active listening. Developed by Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix, the process has three steps: Mirroring, Validation, and Empathy. I find that asking open-ended questions is super helpful.

I will focus on open-ended questions, mirroring, and validation.


Open-ended questions encourage thoughtful and personal answers, letting individuals express themselves freely and share their unique perspectives. They cannot be answered with a simple “yes”, “no”, or “maybe”.

  • “How has this experience been for you?” instead of “Were you sad or angry after our disagreement?”
  • “What are your thoughts on contraceptives and condoms?”
  • “What does ‘friends with benefits’ mean to you?”


Mirroring is the action of repeating back what the person said. This also allows you to make sure you understood.

  • “You're saying that when this happened, that made you feel like this. Is that accurate?"
  • “So for you, a friend with benefits is off your radar, but you would love a committed relationship where you can communicate openly. Am I understanding this right?”


Validate is acknowledging and affirming their experience and/or point of view.

  • "I understand why that would be important to you."
  • “That makes a lot of sense to me”


Next time you're having a conversation with someone, try to focus on what they're saying and notice if you have the urge to defend yourself. This may be a sign that you are not engaging in active listening. Ask questions to clarify if needed. You might be surprised at how much it can improve your connections!


To conclude, learning how to advocate for your needs and intentions is an important part of any relationship. It's something that I wish I had known earlier on in my own journey. By using the tools I’ve shared, you can create a space for open and honest communication with your friends, family, and partner(s). Remember that it's okay to be vulnerable and to ask for what you need. By being brave and communicating your intentions, you can build respectful and fulfilling relationships. So go out there, get to know yourself better, and keep practicing these skills. Communication is key, and you've got this!

This column pro­vides infor­ma­tion about sexual health related sub­jects but is intended to be a substitute for med­ical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or per­son with a med­ical con­cern should con­sult with an appropriate doctor or physician.

Yancy Chery
Concordia University