3 Clues for Positive Communication

The discussion has begun and already you feel your pulse increasing and the red glow coming into your face. Why do the discussions always turn into a knock-down, drag-out fight? Discussing difficult topics always seems to bring high emotion. But often, with high emotion comes a flood of irrational thinking and uncontrolled words. Here are three clues to developing positive communication.

1. Use "I" statements. Stop before you speak and realize that the goal of the discussion is not to win. This is not a competition, it is a conversation. The goal of the conversation is to reach a positive outcome for everyone involved. When you begin to use "you" statements, you are firing arrows at your mate. Your words become accusations and your mate feels the need to defend against the WMD's. (weapons of mass destruction).  When you use "I" statements, you take the first step in diffusing the battle. Here's how it works. Say, "When you (attach a specific action), I feel (attach a specific feeling)." You are helping your spouse understand how their actions impact your feelings.

2. See your mate through the lens of their life's experiences. Face it. We are all a product of our past experiences. From family of origin to previous relationships, we tend to view the world as we've learned to view it and we respond to the world in the patterns established through our experiences ... some good, some not so good. However, if you can stop and look at your mate as a person, seeing them as a result of their own experiences, you begin to see them not as your opponent in battle but as the partner you have chosen because you love them. The word is empathy. You begin to feel what they feel.

3. Listen more than you talk. You know in your head that communication is a two-way conversation. But maybe calling it a four-way conversation would be more appropriate. There are two people talking, and the same two people are also listening. When you are having a discussion with your mate, are you really listening to them, or are you just being silent, letting them talk while you are distracted by forming your own thoughts for what you will say next?

As a child, I remember watching Charlie Brown specials for every holiday. You remember ... Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin ... a Charlie Brown Christmas. But one thing I remember vividly, was Charlie Brown's teacher. I don't think we ever actually saw her. But we knew she was there, and we heard her. Only we really didn't hear her. We just heard "wah-wah-wah-wah-wah." What that communicated was that she was speaking but no body really cared enough about what she was saying to even put it into understandable language. We knew there was some noise from someone's voice, but it was unintelligible because we didn't really value what was being said.

Is that how you listen when you and your mate are in a debate? Are you so focused on your own "side" and forming your responses in order to win the debate, that you stop really listening?

Let me to encourage you to listen on three different levels, the next time the two of you are having a discussion.

Listen to what they are saying. Literally. Listen to the words they are speaking. Don't analyze, just hear the words.

Listen to what they are not saying. Watch the non-verbals of your mate while you listen. Watch their face and hands. Read what they are saying, without saying it.

Listen to what they mean. This is where you can read between the lines. What are they saying about how they feel? What are they communicating about something that is troubling to them? Try to step back and be as objective as you possibly can.

I remember very early in our marriage, I had to learn that my husband did not fully trust me. This was a completely foreign concept to me, because I had never dealt with infidelity. I had never lost trust in someone who had committed to remain faithful. However, my husband had experienced the infidelity of a mate. He had not yet known me long enough to trust me fully. He didn't trust anyone fully. I had to listen to some of our early disagreements, knowing that he was having to grow into his trust for me. Once I realized that, I could listen to him differently. I was better able to listen empathetically and try to understand that he was speaking out of past experience. It wasn't so much about not trusting me as it was about not trusting, period. I had to learn to "listen between the lines" and hear the heart of my mate.

The goal of communication is not to win. It is to draw closer to each other. God can take even your disagreements and struggles as you try to communicate to build you up and strengthen your marriage.

About the author:

Teri is passionate about teaching, writing, and ministering to fellow sojourners. She spends her days working in ministry and her evenings and weekends being wife and mom.