Poor communication is overwhelmingly the most common complaint I hear. There are several components of communication you can change.
1. Content: The content of your communication is what you want to talk about. If the content is about a sensitive topic (the other's family; religion; child-rearing; sex or money) pay special attention to the factors below:
2. Timing: If the topic is new, important or sensitive, choose your timing carefully, so your partner can give you his or her full attention. Times to avoid: during the morning dash out the door; right before falling asleep; when electronic devices are on. You might ask "Is now a good time for me to get a few minutes of your attention to discuss _____?"
3. Tone: Avoid sarcasm! Do not yell - speak evenly at moderate volume. Remember also that posture and gestures are the "tone" of body language. Don't point fingers or stand over the person you are speaking to. Instead, sit back in an arms-open position.
4. Phrasing: Choose your words carefully. Talk about YOUR thoughts and feelings. Do not presuppose that you know what your partner thinks or feels. Avoid absolutes ("I never"; "you always"; "no one"; "everyone", etc.) Ask questions (in a non-sarcastic tone) that will invite the other to participate in the discussion. For example: "What are your thoughts on...?" or "Can you help me understand why you feel...?"
5. Listening: We have 2 ears and one mouth. Try to listen more than you talk. Paraphrase back what you hear: "ok, so you think that I ___. Did I understand correctly?" By paraphrasing, the other knows that you listened, took it in, and are treating the discussion seriously.
Remember that changing the way you communicate will take time and practice. Be patient with yourself and others, and give yourself credit for trying!