No matter how great a relationship is, there’s always room for improvement. The realm of communication is one area: many couples have trouble communicating what they need and want from one another, which can lead to discord. It’s not your fault that it’s so difficult — emotions often come into play and derail your discussions.

Don’t let a gap in communication set your entire relationship off-course. Instead, you can both improve your skills so you feel heard in conversations, from frivolous to serious. Here are seven ways to do it:

Make small talk

Many couples, especially those who have been together for years, feel as though they know everything about each other. After a day’s work, you might not delve into conversation — you already know what happened.

However, catching up and small talk are important and meaningful to relationships old and new. As your partner talks about his or her day, you should listen, comment and ask questions to find out more. It shows you’re listening and, more importantly, it shows you care about the most basic details of your loved one’s life.

Try some of these fun questions to get to know your significant other better.

Avoid interruptions

While your significant other is talking, they have the floor. Sure, you can chime in when there’s a pause or change the subject when the discussion is over. But it’s important to wait your turn: interrupting shows you’re not 100 percent committed to the conversation at hand. Instead, listen and log your points in your mind until it’s time for your turn.

Use non-verbal communication and context clues

So much about a person’s mood can be shown without words. The next time you’re talking with your partner, take a good, hard look at his or her physical characteristics. Something as simple as crossed arms can clue you into the fact that they’re feeling closed off or defensive. If your partner isn’t looking at you, they may be ashamed of the topic at hand or have trouble talking about what’s on the table.

Also evaluate your partner’s tone. An escalating volume often means someone is getting angry or frustrated. It might also indicate that you’re not completely comprehending what your loved one is trying to convey. By learning what these subtle clues mean, you will draw a deeper understanding of your partner from every single discussion.

how to increase your relationship communication skills

Strike a balance

While it’s your job to make your partner feel heard and to listen while they speak, it’s important to remember that your issues and happenings matter too. One foundation of good communication in relationships is balance between you and your partner. If one person has the floor, it’s theirs — on the condition that they’ll listen when the spotlight shines on you next. When one person talks more and listens less, you’ll find problems within your relationship. Balance is key.

Repeat and clarify

If you’re not sure of the point your partner is trying to make — or you think you’re on the same page but want to be absolutely certain — don’t be afraid to ask. At the end of a statement or discussion, repeat what you’ve heard and gathered from your significant other and make sure that’s what they were trying to express. If so, you’re both on the same page and ready to move forward with a deeper understanding of one another’s point of view.

Provide suggestions when necessary

There’s a time and a place for giving advice — and you’ll know when they arrive. The person in need of counsel will ask for it, and only then should you give your two cents. One of the most important steps to giving advice is to wait until your input is wanted.

No matter what, it’s important to show your partner that you’re always on their side. When you do give your point of view, make it clear that you have confidence in them to make the right decision in whatever situation has arisen — whether they heed your advice or not.

Listen — and make it clear that you are

Listening is key to great communication. Not only should you be listening carefully and intently to what your partner says, but you should also make it clear that you hear everything. From avoiding interruptions and providing advice to waiting your turn and reading body language, better communication starts with being a good listener.

Relationships take work — you know this, as does anyone who is in one. But with open communication, trust and love shared between you, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish or overcome together.

how to upgrade your communication skills in your love life