Let’s examine some foundational concepts that help to increase our ability to communicate better with each other.
1.) Communication Does Not End With Speaking
The circle of good communication covers talking, listening, understanding and acting on what was communicated. Just because you’ve said something doesn’t mean that you effectively communicated with the intended recipient.
Peter Drucker, the famed management consultant and educator, often said, "The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said."
A few years ago, while I was doing some shopping in Italy, a seller was passionately trying to tell or sell me something, but I didn’t understand a word of what he was saying. He was speaking a language I didn’t understand. He was talking; he was passionate; but he was not communicating.
The same is true in marriage. Your spouse may hear what you said, but not interpret it the way you meant it. That’s why it is important to check that your spouse is on the same page with you during any serious discussion.
One way to do this is to respectfully ask your spouse to repeat to you (in his or her own words) what they believe you’ve been saying. That way, you will be able to correct any misunderstanding and affirm if your communication was successful or otherwise. If you do this, you would avoid tons of conflict.
2.) Communication Is Not A Science, It’s An Art
The way a person communicates is a composite of upbringing, training, conditioning, personality, circumstance, body language and language comprehension. And, none of these parts are the same for any two people. That’s perhaps the reason why so many of us struggle with understanding others.
Therefore, it’s important to realise that good communication with your spouse will not happen overnight. Even after 29 years of marriage, my wife and I continually work on the way we communicate.
The truth is that I am changing all the time and so is my wife. So we keep learning and adapting and forgiving each other because we are committed to communicating in a healthy way. The Bible says:
For we all make many mistakes, and if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. (James 3:2.)
The point being that communication is complex and the results can be very unpredictable. Nevertheless, you can get better at communicating with time, even if you never quite hit perfection. I trust that the principles in the rest of these articles will help you do just that.
3.) Constant Miscommunication Leads To Severe Consequences
I cannot count how many times my wife and I have said things to each other only to find out later that a miscommunication had occurred. Usually, these lead to hurtful and painful consequences. Sometimes they lead to tears or frustration or even anger.
The reason for this is simple. Words are powerful. They can build and they can destroy. They can encourage and they can discourage. They can motivate and they can cripple. They have the power to heal or to wound.
That’s why you cannot afford to be careless with your words. The Bible put this truth like this:
The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God. (James 3:5-9. NLT.)
Notice how the text describes the effect of the words we speak to each other: Enormous damage; set on fire; blazing flame of destruction; uncontrollable evil; and full of deadly poison.
In short, God is saying that this one area alone is strong enough to blow a hole the size of England in your marriage. Friends, this is serious.
A good person produces good words from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil words from an evil heart. And I tell you this, that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak. The words you say now reflect your fate then; either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned by them. (Matthew 12:35-37. NLT.)
...To be continued next week.
Written by Pastor Tony Peters. Extracts from KEYS TO EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE.