Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum. They exist between two emotional human beings who bring their own past experiences, history, and expectations into it. Two different people also have different levels of skill when it comes to communication. But better communication, because it is a skill, can also be learned. Communication either makes or breaks most relationships. You can improve your relationship today, right now, by putting into practice these two tips for improving the communication in your relationship.

1. Be open and honest with your partner.

Some people have never been very open to others in their life. Some people might not even know themselves, or know much about their own real needs and desires. But to be in a relationship is to take a step toward opening up your life and opening up yourself.

Little lies turn into big lies. Hiding your emotions behind a cloak of invincibility might work for you, but won’t work for most others. Pretending everything is alright isn’t alright. And giving your partner the silent treatment is about as useful as a fish with a bicycle. In the desert. At night. These things may have “worked” for you in the past, but they are all barriers to good communication.

Being open means talking about things you may have never talked about with another human being before in your life. It means being vulnerable and honest with your partner, completely and unabashedly. It means opening yourself up to possible hurt and disappointment. But it also means opening yourself up to the full potential of all a relationship can be.

2. Force yourself to hear.

You’ve stopped talking for the moment, but your head is still swirling with all of the things you want to say, so you’re still not really hearing what is being said. Therapists have a technique that works very well that “forces” them to really hear what a client tells them — rephrasing what a person has just said to them (called “reflection”). This may upset a partner if you do it too much, or do it in a tone that suggests you’re mocking rather than trying to seriously listen. So use the technique sparingly, and let your partner know why you’re doing it if they ask. Sure you can reply by saying; — “Sometimes I don’t think I’m getting what you’re telling me, and doing this lets me slow my mind down a bit and really try and hear what you’re saying.”