Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. Colossians 4:6
Effective communication is paramount in any relationship, and especially in marriage. We must be willing to convey our honest thoughts, attitudes, and feelings in a manner that reflects and glorifies Christ. This is the foundation of a successful marriage as well as a healthy church or friendship. Without good communication, a marriage or any relationship in the church, the workplace, or anywhere cannot work well (Prov. 29:20; Matt. 21:22; Luke 8:18; Rom. 12:10; Eph. 4:15, 25-29; Col. 3:5, 16, 4:6; 1 Tim. 4:12; James 1:19; 1 Peter 3).
Every marriage book or seminar tells us to communicate well, but often fails to give practical advice. In this post, I assume that you know that communication is essential, so let’s talk about practical ways to honor God and make your relationships better through good-quality communication.
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:10
Be open and honest. Express feelings, and the desires, aspirations, and plans you see for yourself, and for your spouse. This seems daunting if you have not practiced, but try to start with small concessions of vulnerability and emotional honesty – slowly build up to complete openness. If you’re already communicating on this level, keep it up – if not, take heart – the person with whom you fell in love can once again gain soulmate status with a little effort and God’s help.
Don’t forget to show care to your spouse at all times. If you are truly putting the other first, this will open doors to good communication, as you care for each other in even small ways. As the old saying goes, courtesy is contagious!
Show interest in your spouse. Ask questions, listen to each other fully, and do not dominate the conversation. Good communication is always a give-and-take transaction.
Do your best to communicate disappointments to expectations without blaming or resorting to anger – always show the love of Christ!
Seek first to understand what your spouse is saying, do not assume, and make sure they feel understood.
When you have disagreements–and you will–explain your position in kindness with rational and reasonable reasons for it. Do not jump to conclusions or be emotional or manipulative. Any good position will be open for comments, evaluation, criticism, and the opinions of the one you are called to love.
Make sure you hear your spouse’s position correctly. If you are not sure, are confused, if it does not make sense, or it is incongruent, ask questions for clarification.
Compliment your spouse’s ideas, whether you agree or not, and be courteous. When giving a critique, be constrictive, positive, true, and respectful.
Paraphrase back what they said for clarity. If you think there is a misunderstanding brewing, ask a question, “May I restate what I am hearing from you?”
Be aware of your body language. Make sure you are not giving off negative signals or have a callous or insensitive tone. Remember, you may be doing this and not even realize it.
Do not jump to conclusions or be judgmental – having assumptions about your spouse hinders listening and communication. Give your spouse a chance to surprise you; do not assume the worst but give grace.
Always be a learner; seek what you can learn from your spouse, from this situation, and from mistakes made by you or others.
To effectively listen, we need to give our spouse our full attention. We must be willing to build the skills of empathetic and active listening. To do this, we first need to concentrate on quieting our own thoughts and concerns so we can hear theirs. We all have a natural, internal commentary going; try to shut it off until afterward.
Think through the steps you need to take to put good communication into action in a specific instance and ask yourself these questions:
How do I exhibit good communication with my spouse?
What can I do to develop better communication?
What blocks good communication skills from working and being exhibited in me?
Check out an earlier post in this series here