When couples complain that they're not communicating, they don't realize that wives and husbands can't not communicate. But are you still communicating, even when neither of you is talking? Absolutely! Communication doesn't require either party to utter a single sound. In fact, you can sometimes communicate louder in silence than you ever could with words.

Imagine the following scenario: You are walking down the street, when a stranger knocks you down and steals your bag. You are terribly upset when you arrive home, and very much in need of your partner's attention. However, after you breathlessly finish telling your spouse about your awful experience, he says nothing. Then, he proceeds to bury his head in a newspaper.

Is your spouse communicating something through his wordless response? You bet he is, and there's probably nothing positive for you in that message.

Perhaps your partner is saying that he doesn't really care about what happened to you. Maybe he's too caught up in his own concerns, or he doesn't know how to respond to yours. Maybe he's just too upset to talk, because he feels powerless to do anything to help you. In any case, that kind of silent communication sends a message that is as loud as any shout.

Communication is about a lot more than talking. Many essential messages are transmitted through attitude, facial expressions, and body language — as well as through words that are left unsaid. Communication is also physical. Your spouse can convey a message of affection by gently touching your hand. However, if he squeezes your hand to the point of pain, that may be a very different kind of message.

To become an effective communicator, you have to pay close attention to what your partner is telling you through his moods, attitudes, gestures, movements, and actions. The flip side of this skill is recognizing the non-verbal messages you yourself are transmitting. You can sharpen your non-verbal communication skills by using the steps in the following sections.

Watch for changes in mood and attitude

Is your normally effervescent spouse suddenly down in the dumps? Is he distracted and forgetful in ways you haven't observed before?

These changes can be signs that there are things going on in your partner's life (or psyche) that he doesn't wish to discuss — at least not now. Still, you may want to say something like, "Honey, I've noticed that you haven't been your usual cheerful self lately." If she still won't address these changes with you, make a written or mental note of these shifts in behavior. Try to remain watchful of how they play out in the days and weeks to come.

It can be difficult to see yourself with the same objectivity you apply to others. But communication is always a two-way street, especially in marriage. That's why it's important to monitor your own tone of voice, attitudes, and other nonverbal behaviors with the same sharp eye you use to observe your spouse.