Just because someone’s mouth is moving doesn’t mean communication is taking place. Clear communication is sharing yourself verbally and nonverbally in a way that your spouse both accepts and understands. The three vital elements to communication are expressing, listening, and responding.
1. Expressing: Sort what you want to say into three categories—what you think, what you feel, and what you need. Then start talking. Give details, ask clarifying questions, and don’t expect your mate to read your mind.
- Take one issue at a time. Pouring everything out seldom gives your spouse much information about anything. Help your spouse stay on track with a few phrases: “Tell me more about…” or “What were you saying about…?” or “That sounds like another issue. Let’s talk about the other one first and come back to this one later.”
- Allow one person to speak at a time. When your spouse is expressing, give him or her room for full expression—no interruptions, no feedback. If you both fight to be heard at the same time, communication is bound to break down.
- Be specific and to the point. Men like to start communicating from the top—the main point—and go from there. Women would rather talk around the topic and eventually arrive at the main point. Wives, express successfully by accommodating your husband’s need to hear the bottom line up front. Husbands, you will make communication more enjoyable for your wife if you include plenty of detail with your main point.
2. Listening: If you are like most couples, the biggest step you can take to improve communication is to improve listening in your marriage. Listening is the key to understanding your spouse’s needs. Start by saying to your mate, “Sometimes I feel as if I don’t have your attention when we talk.” Then instead of citing hard evidence, share a personal confession: “When you are excited to tell me something, I know I have a habit of cutting you off. When I am focused on doing something, I don’t exactly encourage you to talk.” Ask your mate what he or she thinks gets in the way of your communication. Tell your mate that he or she has your undivided attention. Maintain eye contact. Don’t jump in with a solution. Ask your mate his or her needs, and how you can best meet them!
3. Responding: The point of responding is not to introduce your own agenda but to clarify and fully understand what your spouse is expressing. Men tend to try to fix the situation, get defensive, get angry, or withdraw. Even while his wife is still stating the problem, a man’s brain is working on a solution: a wrong to right or an error to correct. Women tend to seek security, reassurance, a sympathetic ear, and validation in response from their husbands. First they need empathy and understanding to feel emotionally connected to her patiently listening husband. Then she may be ready for suggestions on what to do. She needs a wise response that makes her feel as if you understand. Just remember the acrostic
- Ask—“What do you need most from me right now?” or “How can I help you?”
- Suggest—Offer to assist by saying, “Would it help if I…?”
- Kneel—Assume an inner posture of servanthood. Reassure your spouse that you will do whatever he or she needs you to do. “What can I do to help you?”