Random thoughts on Life, Leadership, & Messy Spirituality

6 Things To Remember When Communicating

The feedback & response we have been getting from our “Happily Ever After” teaching series at Eagle Pointe church has been off the charts! It has been amazing & humbling to see God working in SO MANY lives & families. So, for the next few weeks, I’ll be doing a series of blog postings about marriage & relationships to help all of us even further than just a 30 minute message on Sundays.

6 Things To Remember When Communicating:

This is a big part of what I’m teaching on this Sunday at Eagle Pointe Church. As we continue our “Happily Ever After” series, my message will be “Cultivate Communication”. So, here are 6 things we need to remember whenever we’re speaking to our spouse, kids, loved ones, etc.

1) Who Is This Person?

If it’s your spouse, you owe this person a lot more than just a few thrown together sentences. This person has vowed to stand by you through sickness and in health, for better or worse until death do you part. He/she has likely already weathered stomach flu, dirty diapers, taxes, bills, wrinkles and morning breath with you. Don’t you think they deserve your best effort at communication without sloppy, unprepared rants?

Many of us are usually polite to strangers. In fact, we often let salespeople come into our homes or talk to us on the phone because we don’t want to be rude or hurt their feelings. The person walking with us through life deserves that kind of courtesy and a lot more. So before we attempt any kind of communication we should remind ourselves of this person’s place and value in our life. It amazes me sometimes when I hear how people who say they love each other – speak to each other.

2) What You Communicate

Determine what you are going to say – BEFORE you say it. You don’t want to realize that what you’re saying is selfish, insensitive, harsh, unreasonable or even incorrect AFTER you’ve said them out loud to your spouse. Words are hard to take back and often leave hurt and doubt in the heart of your spouse.

So with sensitive topics, it would be wise of you to say your words out loud to yourself first – instead of “trying them out” on your spouse. You might have some editing to do on some of the words that come out wrong.

By asking you to do some editing, it might sound like I’m asking you to do work or even like I’m suggesting you be careful with your words. You’re right! You might even be thinking that when two people are emotionally intimate that such care need not be taken with words and that you should each be free to simply speak your mind. That idea might sound romantic and even poetic, but be in a relationship long enough and you’ll likely find that much hurt and damage could be avoided if we actually did some preparation before we attempted to communicate.

3) When You Communicate

When you’re angry — this might be the time that you go to another room and listen to your words out loud before you say them to your spouse. And then it’s likely best to wait until you calm down. When we’re angry, judgment and logic can be more difficult to exercise than when we’re calm. If you’re honest with yourself, you’d agree that you’re much more reasonable and rational when you haven’t lost control of your temper.

Many times I’ve suggested that couples call a “time out” during a discussion when one or both are losing their temper. Little if anything can be accomplished when the conversation deteriorates to a yelling match. In fact, those experiences can cause long term damage to relationships and, like a growing snowball, can cause larger problems in the future.

It’s up to you to decide if the discussion has digressed to an argument. If that’s the case, try to stop so you can collect yourself and resume a productive discussion. If you aren’t in a correct emotional state of mind, it’s not time to attempt communication. It’s also wise to avoid an intense discussion right after one or both of you arrive home from work, while driving or when it’s date night. Plan the discussion so that you have privacy, focus and comfort. No one else deserves to listen in unless you’re working with a qualified professional and have already planned for them to be present.

4) Where You Communicate

Do you want to have a conversation with your spouse about a difficult topic or changes you want in your relationship? It’s best NOT to attempt it in crowded restaurants, in front of the children, in stores, at your parents’ house,  or most public places. As you plan when to communicate, you must consider the place (where) that will allow you the most privacy, focus and comfort possible.

5) Why You Communicate

Are you having a bad day and looking for someone to hear you vent? That’s perfectly acceptable, but admit that to yourself AND your spouse FIRST so that each of you know that your frustrations don’t revolve around them.

Maybe you had a bad day. Fine, but don’t blame your spouse for your bad day. In fact, you might ask their permission first. Maybe you ask something like, “Could I vent to you?” or “I had a bad day, mind if I tell you about it?” Or maybe you just want to enjoy the silence. The bottom line is that they need to know that your frustration isn’t about them at the moment.

Ask yourself why you want to communicate before you say anything else or even before you open your mouth in the first place. Know your motivation first and then you’ll have a much better chance of effectively communicating.

6) How You Communicate

You likely know that communication is not just verbal. It can be with a touch of the hand, a hug, an expression or even through your posture. In fact, 90% of communication is non-verbal!

So when you communicate, especially if the topic is difficult or there’s risk it could come across in “the wrong way,” be sure your nonverbal communication shows love, respect and simple manners. Look at the other person so they know you’re attentive to him/her and that he/she matters to you. If you’re asking for change in the behavior of the other person, and sometimes that’s necessary, you might touch his/her arm as you speak, so that you communicate your care and commitment in spite of what could sound like a complaint.

When you are responding to an idea offered by your spouse, don’t be dismissive. If you’re both trying to find a solution to a problem, neither of you deserve criticism or dismissal. Instead, be as supportive as you can and treat them like the teammate they are in your relationship. If you disagree with an idea from your spouse, you need to determine if the conversation and timing is right for disagreement. If it’s not, you simply need to acknowledge their idea as a possibility or a contribution to the discussion and attempt to move on.

Be clear. Your spouse is not a mind reader. Don’t make him/her guess and don’t chastise if he/she doesn’t immediately understand what you’re saying or how you feel. Be patient and precise.

Whatever you do in word or with your body, remember the old and wise saying, “You get more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

We haven’t even scratched the surface of effective communication within marriage & relationships. There are many other factors such as personality traits, temperaments, stages of life, current struggles, current successes and other topics that contribute to how we communicate with each other and what we should do to maximize that communication.

But take to heart what I’ve shared and you’ll be in pretty good shape. Next time talk with a spouse, kid, or loved one, start by asking yourself who, what, when, where, why and how.

* Parts borrowed from Joe Beam – LovePath Int’l.

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