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Relationships and Communication

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Human beings are social creatures, and we are wired to connect. We feel better, are physically healthier, and are better able to cope with life's ups and downs when we have a solid social support network. Relationships can also be hard, and we all have difficulties in our relationships from time to time.

Communication Skills

Learning and practicing better communication strategies can help maintain relationships. These tips are provided for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for couples counseling.

  • Unconditional. Listen without judgment and for understanding. Remember we all have different ideas and perspectives.
  • Empathy. Express your understanding of how the person is feeling, and accept the other person as a person, even if you don't like their ideas or behavior.
  • Genuine. Be true to yourself in the conversation.

Use "I statements" to assert yourself and be respectful of yourself and the other person, instead of being passive and disregarding your own needs or being aggressive and disregarding the needs of the other person:

"I feel ______________ (the effect of their behavior on you)
when you ___________________ (the actual concrete behavior)
because ___________________________________ (the concrete effect of the behavior)
and I would like you to _________________________________. (offer a solution)

9 Tips for Helpful Communication

  1. Show respect.
  2. Be clear.
  3. Don't make assumptions.
  4. Open up.
  5. Accept the feelings of others.
  6. Use humor - sparingly.
  7. Avoid the role of the victim.
  8. Listen first.
  9. Check your body language.

5 Tips to Reduce Fighting

  1. Shift the focus.
  2. Take a time-out.
  3. Stop and check in.
  4. Look for compromise.
  5. Say you're sorry.

Sometimes it is too hard to learn new habits on our own and a counselor can help to get a new perspective. Get help for yourself if you notice that something is holding you back from being the self that you want to be in a relationship. Maybe you have a temper, you can't say what you want to say because you are shy or anxious, or you get easily triggered by the other person's behavior. A counselor can also help if you are not sure why you are having trouble in your relationships, or if you are finding yourself lonely or disconnected. You can seek couples counseling if you and your partner want to work on your relationship together.

Dating and Domestic Violence

Interpersonal Violence Prevention: Resources for interpersonal violence prevention at UH Hilo, as well as support and services for victims and survivors of sexual assault.

Power and Control Wheel: "Physical and sexual assaults, or threats to commit them, are the most apparent forms of domestic violence and are usually the actions that allow others to become aware of the problem. However, regular use of other abusive behaviors by the batterer, when reinforced by one or more acts of physical violence, make up a larger system of abuse." The Power and Control Wheel is a helpful tool in identifying these other abusive behaviors.

loveisrespect.org Find out everything you want to know about dating and relationships. Is your relationship healthy? Are you good partner? Take a quiz to find out.

Healthy Relationships

Equality Wheel: Healthy Relationships have these things in common.

Connectedness and Healthy Relationships at Ulifeline

What does a healthy dating relationship look like? Check out this table.

Online Resources and Videos

It's Not About the Nail. Very short video demonstrates how to listen and respond with empathy and non-judgment.

Conflict Resolution. Animated video describes the origins of conflict.