Poor communication is often cited as the major contributor to marital misunderstandings, parent-child conflicts and interpersonal problems in general.
Communication involves at least two parties: the speaker and the listener. It is definitely a two-way street. Misunderstandings may be the fault of the person speaking or the one listening and sometimes both may be to blame. Following are some tips that will help “talkers” be more effective in their speech.
Choose appropriate times for communication. This doesn’t mean that two people need to speak only by appointment. In most households there will be a lot of small-talk that goes on throughout the day. This is normal and good and helps to keep family members in touch with each other. However, when weighty topics need to be addressed, particularly those that could result in disagreement, it is wise to reserve a specific time for discussion. Some couples find that it works well to go to a coffee shop or restaurant for such talks. They know they are more apt to keep tempers under control in a public place.
Be transparent without blaming. If two people want to get to know each other, they must hear each other’s thoughts, feelings, plans and opinions. This requires transparent sharing of dreams, ideas and aspirations, failures, disappointments and pain. What must be guarded against is throwing blame for these feelings on the other person. The husband who says, “You make me so mad!” to his wife is actually speaking a lie. No one, or nothing, makes a person mad. People get angry by their own choice. When sharing the thoughts of one’s heart, there needs to be an understood rule that each person must take responsibility for his own feelings, actions and reactions. Without this, communication can quickly deteriorate into a blame game which is tremendously destructive.
Avoid emotionally-charged words and nasty exaggerations. When people say, “You always…..” or, “You never….,” they are usually telling a lie. If the listener can think of even one exception to the accusation, he/she can quickly dismiss the statement as inaccurate. Better to say, “It seems to me that you frequently…..” or, “I feel like you sometimes…” These kinds of statements can be discussed more objectively. And of course, hurtful, attacking words such as name-calling, cursing, crude language or rejecting words, such as “Shut up,” or “I hate you,” should never be allowed.
Enhance your talking with great non-verbals. Much communication is actually not spoken. Posture and facial expressions speak volumes. The wife who smiles and looks pleasant while addressing her husband is less likely to receive harsh retaliation. The parent who looks encouragingly into the eyes of his child when giving an instruction, is more likely to get cooperation.
Follow God’s advice. Scripture has much to say about communication. Post the following verses on the refrigerator, or write them out and carry them with you. Work at memorizing them. Cleaning up your speech may very well eliminate a lot of the disappointments and misunderstandings that have been cluttering up your relationships.
- Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
- Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh one stirs up anger.
- Proverbs 12:22 The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.
- Proverbs 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
- Proverbs 13:3 He who guards his lips guards his soul, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.
- Proverbs 15:4 The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.