“Communication is key.” How many times have we either heard or said that sentence. When we truly think about that sentence, it is not only a true statement but everything we do hinges on communication. Whether it be verbal or non-verbal, we all communicate with one another on a daily basis. The sad reality is that most of us do a lousy job of it. We communicate in our own “language” and we use a “dialect” that is too often misunderstood.
This is never more evident than in marriage. Kerry and I witness this communication lapse, not only in our marriage, but in those we counsel. It seems that this is one of the top triggers for conflict in a marriage.
So with that fact, we would like to share 3 paths towards better communication in your marriage, as well as any relationship.
It’s Not What You Say, It’s HOW You Say It: Your tone will set the path for the conversation. You heard us say it before, and we will say it again. Sarcasm can be detrimental to your marriage. If your tone is demeaning, condescending or rude, this will also tear down any attempt at reconciliation. Kerry and I truly believe that rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strength. If you aren’t sure or even aware if your communication with your spouse is either rude, condescending or sarcastic…maybe even all three, then ask your spouse during a time that you are willing to not only listen to their answer but to receive and correct it for the better. When you speak to your spouse, remember, you are speaking to God’s daughter/son. He ordained your spouse to you and they should be treated as what they are-a gift from God. Ask God to control your tone and inflection as you speak to them.
It’s Not What You Say, It’s WHEN You Say It: Timing is everything. Kerry and I handle and process conflict differently. I am quick to deal with a situation. I am wanting to fully discuss the situation at hand right then and there. Kerry will take time to reflect and digest the events that have unfolded. She is initially few of words and I will share exactly what I am thinking as I am thinking it. Neither handling is wrong, nor is either right. They are who we are and with that understanding, we both need to then control when we speak to the conflict at hand. I need to understand that if Kerry has had a long day or is dealing with personal issues, my seeking open dialogue and communication on an issue may not yield the response I desire. In fact, even though I am seeking resolution, I may be increasing the conflict due to my selfish timing. In other words…My timing stinks. On the flip side, Kerry will need to realize that if I am distracted with another issue or project and she feels it necessary to pursue a reconciling conversation during that time, I will more than likely become agitated due to my nature to resolve conflict immediately. My spirit is not prepared to discuss the situation and I will begin to force my thoughts when I am not emotionally prepared. Again, know your spouse and know when timing is the best. One possible solution. Schedule an argument. That’s right, schedule a time within 36 hours of your argument to solve it then. That should allow timing to be good for both of you.
It’s Not What You Say, It’s How It’s RECIEVED: Here is the last path and in most cases the most vital. Yes, your tone and timing is important; however, what you hear or comprehend your spouse is saying is the crucible of resolving conflict. One HUGE rule Kerry and I share with every couple we sit with is this: Conflict resolution is NEVER to be done via text, e-mail, IM, or even on the phone. Communication during a conflict should ALWAYS be done face to face, eye to eye. You both must be able to see each other’s body language and see the whites of each other’s eyes as you speak to one another. Once you are together, then you need to take time to listen and understand what your spouse is saying. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to do the “Pen Talk” with each other. Take one pen, or pencil, and sit down together. The one with the pen is the only one to speak. Seriously, as hard as it may be, you may not speak unless you hold the pen. Once the person with the pen shares the “why” they are hurting or feeling the conflict, they pass it to their spouse. Now here is the KEY…once you are passed the pen, you must re-state what your spouse just shared but in your own words. In other words, do you understand what they are expressing? If you did, then respond to that comment. If not, then the pen is passed back for them to state it another way. This will continue back and forth during the resolution of the conflict at hand. Remember this, one cannot address nor comment on any statement until it is fully understood or received properly. Also realize that you may see that your communication towards your spouse is cloudy and without a clear definition. Take time to see that and ask God to help you clarify your thoughts. God’s word teaches us clearly that we are to be one with our spouse: in flesh, mind and spirit. Also, there are times that frustration will increase. If this be the case. Stop and reschedule another time in the next 36 hours to sit down and try again. A marriage will grow as both husband and wife continue to show the sacrificial love of listening and receiving communication from each other.