Mark: On Saturday, we had the privilege of spending the morning with over 80 couples at our No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out in Normal, IL. It was a great morning of working on our marriages together!
Jill: When we do our seminars, we teach a session and then we send the couples off to talk about what they learned in that session. We give them a template for those conversations, telling them that it will likely feel awkward initially, but reassuring them it will deepen their conversation and really help them hear each other if they’ll give it a try. By the end of the day, the evaluations speak for themselves. Many commented that they wish they’d had MORE time to talk!
Mark: After each “couple talk time” break we took a few minutes to debrief on how that experience was for anyone who wanted to share. One guy shared honestly that he’d been using the “hinting and hoping” method of communication and had found it ineffective. In just twenty minutes or so, this new way of communicating had netted better results than years of hinting and hoping, it seemed.
Jill: We tend to communicate on the go, haphazardly, too often filled with emotion. Life is crazy busy and communication is often compromised. Without some intentionality, our reckless communication contributes to the slow fade of defensiveness, the slow fade of disagreeing, or the slow fade of minimizing. (You can find out more about the slow fades in our No More Perfect Marriages book.)
Mark: With that in mind, here are five strategies for changing the way you communicate with your spouse. Four are topics we’ve explored in the past. If you want more info on any of those, click on the topic to learn more.
Reflect Back: When your spouse says something to you, resist the urge to argue back. Instead, reflect back what he or she just said to you. Start with, “What I hear you saying is….” Then ask your spouse, “Is that correct?” Then, “Is there more?” It’s not time to share your point; it’s just time to hear their point. Doing so will help your spouse feel heard and valued. It will also change the dynamics of your communication patterns in a positive way.
Ask Three Questions: When you ask your spouse a question, ask him or her three MORE questions before you comment or share your thoughts about the subject.
Validate and Offer Compassion: Say things like, “I can see how that frustrated you.” or “I’m so sorry you’re so disappointed in how that happened.” Your validating, compassionate responses will allow you to build a bridge to your spouse’s heart.
Push Information To Your Spouse: Don’t hint. Clearly communicate information to your spouse. Don’t assume he or she knows information. Or that they will see things the way you see things. Let them in on what you are thinking.
Don’t Use Passive Aggressive Language: This is an ineffective, masked way of expressing anger or disappointment without actually saying you’re anger or disappointed. “Whatever.” if probably the most common passive-aggressive response found in marriage. And the silent treatment probably comes in second place. These are both just sugar-coated hostility. Instead, learn to be assertive in your communication–saying things kindly, but honestly. If you need help learning how to do that, counseling can be a good option.
Jill: Hinting never works. It’s in ineffective form of communication and only contributes to hurts and fades in your relationship. Assertive communication and intentional listening carried out with kindness and compassion will take your marriage communication in the right direction. (Want to attend a No More Perfect Marriages event in the future? Registration is now open for our Valentine’s event in Central Illinois.)
What about you? Which of the five communication strategies do you need to be more intentional about this week?