God has made each and every one of us completely different. That makes communication challenging. There is a reason why we thrive in special friendships – because we speak the same language, and there is a reason why we dispute in our marriages – because we speak different languages.
You really have to, especially in a marriage, be interested to educate yourself and study your spouses communication methods. It is an art that I hope someday, way down the road, to master. Moreover, most of the things I have learned, I am needing to apply to myself. If we all want to be the best spouses or friends we can be, then should always be looking for ways to improve.
I have been studying ways my husband and others communicate lately and yesterday, I enjoyed hearing from my church pastor’s on communication from a mans point-of-view. I would like to share some of their great points.
But first, some things that I have figured out:
- Every relationship has communication differences. Some of them struggle more than others, but it was good for me to remember that there is no perfect marriage with zero disputes or tough discussions. I think every couple has challenges in communication – some just show it more than others.
- You can’t change the other person, you can only change yourself. I had to notice how defensive I got with certain things my husband would say. He isn’t incredibly sensitive, he is rather factual and is very honest. This was actually one of the first things I was really attracted to in him, but when it was turned on me, I wasn’t used to it. Instead of constantly saying, “You need to be more sensitive,” I had to notice that there wasn’t a “right” way of communicating. My defensiveness was just accusing his communication method as wrong, and we had to compromise at a method that would work better with both of us making adjustments.
- Regarding defensiveness, I also realized that if you start thinking of what you are going to say next in a dispute, you are not listening which makes you a poor communicator. Instead of listening, I noticed that I was thinking of my comeback or the point I was trying to make instead of just focusing and listening. The best communicators are great listeners.
- The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman really opened my husband and my eyes. When the communication methods are different between two, that means the way you are communicating love is different. It seems so simple which is why I read the book and went, “Duh!” My way of communicating may be through quality time or gentle, complimentary words; however, my husband may speak love by acts of service (providing for us, taking care of the yard, etc…). Neither way is right nor wrong, so embrace study each others communication. Once you figure out their language (and love language), the changes in a marriage can be amazing.
Here are some other good points from Pastor Paul & Will, with of course, my blubbering thoughts added…
- Go into the conversation with what you are hoping to accomplish. If you find yourself in the middle of a discussion and don’t know what it is you are arguing about or what you intend to get out of it, then stop. Like me, I realized that a lot of our more heated discussions were because I attacked with defensiveness instead of listening and attempting to identify the issue and then find a solution. If you just want to vent, tell your husband that before he starts trying to fix the problem which then makes you upset. If you want a compliment or boost of confidence out of a “how do I look?” question, then say, “Hey, I am not feeling that attractive. What dress do you really like and you think I should wear? I want to look nice for you.” Having an honest husband like mine has made me not point and be mad at him that he doesn’t have the ANSWER I want or isn’t reading my mind, but has made me ask the right questions.
- Take time to listen and don’t interrupt. Like I said before, the best communicators are usually the ones that say the least. You can walk away from a conversation with a good listener with them only saying a few words and think, “Wow, great talk!” Whether it is excitement or a tougher discussion, leave your thoughts for the end of the other persons.
- Create the emotional support needed, first by listening and then by problem solving. A friend or your spouse needs to know you really care about the feelings and situation involved, and build strong trust before you can start suggesting things or asking questions.
- Feeling words vs. Accusing words: This would be “You don’t care about me!” opposed to what should be, “When you do (this), I don’t feel a lot of love or care coming from you.” My husband does care and does love me so it just hurts him when our love languages battle and although he has spent the day in the yard making it nice, I say, “You don’t care about me.” That is not true – his love for me is shown in another way. Turning it around and saying, “I feel like you don’t care about spending time with me when you are in the yard all the time,” created the compromise of being with him outside or making a date night.
- A man really needs to feel respected, as does a woman, therefore listen, don’t accuse and show respect. My defensiveness, again, was disrespectful to my husbands’ thoughts which being united, I need to care and have interest in his point – maybe not agree – but take the time to hear him out without attacking.
- External processors vs. Internal processors: Some of us go in our special place when we want to process and think about things. We shut down. Others process on the outside, immediately wanting to talk things out and come up with a solution. Funny how these two frequently marry. I like to talk things out, but only when there is no anger or high emotions involved. The high emotions make me shut down, then Chris shuts down and then we are both totally stubborn, so it turns into, “who is going to talk to whom first?” We made an agreement that if we are angry or hurt, we need to seek God first, either together or in our own space. I think for all people it is good to process internally before you process externally.
- This goes with, TIMING. Timing a discussion or hot topic is crucial. When Chris gets home from work, I can’t explode with my stressful day happenings. That is not the right time. My family growing up and now my husband and I always have dinner time. That is our very important time where we talk about our days and anything else tugging on us. If it is a bigger conversation needed, I will say, “Will you please tell me this evening when would be a good time to talk about (this)?”
- For husband and wife, and I think for good friendships too, alone time is important. It gives you the time to zone in on each other and really listen without distractions. My husband and I have, at a minimum, a date night per month. It gives us that reassurance that we do still love each other and are interested in each other without adding the children.
- Men are commonly, “emotionally modest,” meaning you have to draw out what is really going on. You have to ease in and create that emotional support like said above without just saying, “What is wrong!?” Because often they will say, “Nothing.” Find out how to use “communication foreplay” to lead in carefully without making them uncomfortable and shut down.
James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”