Communication – How Hard Can it Be?!
Ever end up 30 minutes into a conversation turned argument and you have no idea what you were even fighting about?! Don’t worry. I think every married couple has been there. I know we have countless times, especially in our early years of marriage. Even though you know everyone occasionally does it, it still sucks! When those times happen, you walk away frustrated, hurt and confused. What even started that?! Communication can seem so clear and simple yet in reality it can be alarmingly hard to communicate with your spouse!
Chances are one of you were trying to communicate and somewhere, something went awry. One of you were trying to make a point. Maybe the other went into defense mode, someone got offended, or a misunderstanding occurred. Sometimes trying to communicate about an issue can lead into an underlying issue. There are many ways for communication to get jumbled and morph into a confrontation.
That’s why I gathered a few of the practices we’ve used to improve communication in our marriage. We’re not 100% on these and I honestly don’t know that any couple out there is. But these do definitely help us communicate, especially when I take notice that the communication is frustrating one of us or taking a turn south.
Say What You Mean & Mean What You Say.
Communication is really too hard already without trying to sneak an implied message into what you say. Simplify your sentences and say just what you mean. Take time to think about your words before they come out. I promise this gets easier the more you do it and that awkward silence before you reply gets shorter and shorter. Just tell him you’re thinking of how to say it. And if you want to say something but you truly don’t mean it in your heart, don’t say it! Shut up! Do you know how many times I’ve had to tell myself that?! Oy.
Take Things with a Grain of Salt.
That just means not taking things too seriously. Now this may seem to contradict the above skill, but hear me out. Saying only words that you truly mean is a proactive skill. Taking things too seriously is reactive. Try not to take his words too seriously. Especially since men can tend to be sarcastic. Author Hal Runkle says sarcasm is a form of intelligence but if it’s used to belittle then it’s just downright mean.
My husband is seriously a genius you guys. He scored a perfect score on his HS ACT. Harvard wanted him. I wanted him. I won. But he can struggle with sarcasm that hurts this soft heart. So I have to work hard and recognize his playful sarcasm and communicate when he uses it in real communication and it hurts my feelings. Usually it’s simply “That was not nice.” I say it in a playful tone. He gets a kick out of it but he understands that my soft heart really took offense and he lowers the sarcasm level. SO thankful for this communication tip! It has saved us from many countless fights!
Take It For Face Value.
Just like you’re going to say what you mean, take what he says at face value. Don’t read ulterior motives into his words. You’re going to recognize sarcasm as his playful intelligence. But when he’s serious, take what he says as what he means. Don’t try to figure out what he really means. You’re not a mind reader. That’s not your job. If he has something to say then he’s responsible for communicating that using the first tactic, saying what he means and meaning what he says.
Use “I” Sentences.
Using sentences that begin with “I” will prevent you from accusing your man of something. Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own emotions. This isn’t to discount them though. I know sometimes things happen that make you feel hurt, unloved. Sometimes those emotions are valid. But they’re still yours. So rather than “You hurt me by saying that.” use “I’m hurt by what was said”. This correctly applies your emotions to you but still communicates how you’re feeling.
Seek first to understand. Then to Be Understood.
This is one of Stephen Covey’s habits for highly effective people. Do you want to be highly effective? That sounds like a good thing to me! Listen to your husband when he’s communicating with you. Listen with the goal of 100% absolutely understanding what he’s trying to say and where he’s coming from. Make sure you understand him before you try to be understood.
A good way to do this is to block your mind from forming a response when he’s still talking and simply repeat what he’s saying mentally. Process his information. Then paraphrase it back to him to make sure you got it right and you understand. When paraphrasing and reiterating make sure he knows you’re trying to understand and not trying to mock him. That might be misunderstood as “You’re so stupid I have to make sure I heard you right”. Nobody wants to hear that. Besides, who wants another misunderstanding on top of the one you’re trying to figure out in the first place?!
Physical forms of communication.
Communication goes beyond just the words that you say. Tone & Body Language can convey emotions. Don’t raise your voice. Don’t interrupt or try to talk over him. That’s just asking for a fight. Uncross your arms. I won’t even notice my hands are on my hips and my husband will ask if something is wrong! I’ve got to pay attention I guess LOL! Eye contact. Make eye contact with your man when he’s talking as a sign of respect and to convey that you’re truly listening. Don’t interrupt. Our mamas taught us that as kids. Make your mama proud.
I’ll be honest with you. This is a hard one for me. I’m still trying to find ways to figure out good timing. With four children and a very busy life, we have to fight hard to prioritize time for deeper communication.
We do this by putting the kids to bed early. Even if they don’t go to sleep and are just in bed reading, they need to be out of our hair for real communication to take place. Otherwise I can’t finish a sentence and there are little eavesdroppers everywhere and we all get frustrated.
Even regarding everyday communication – At any given time I can have up to five people talking to me. That’s not counting the smart watch dinging with notifications or the phone ringing. A conversation where I absorb even the majority of the words he says is considered a win in my book. Sometimes we simply have to put our hands up in front of their faces when we’re trying to talk and see them coming LOL! Don’t worry, we eventually get to them! 😉
Love is Patient
When he shuts down and quits communicating, you’re not going to pry him open. Don’t try. It’s ok to be mad. I get really, really frustrated when communication breaks down. He shuts down and I get pissed. If I try to force the communication, there will be an argument.
These skills take time to hone. Patiently practice your physical and verbal communication with your honey and watch the communication in marriage steadily improve.
Cheers to Communicating!