MARRIAGE COMMUNICATION – 11 Tips For Having A Productive Conversation

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MARRIAGE COMMUNICATION – 11 Tips For Having A Productive Conversation

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When it comes to marriage communication (or relationships in general), it often blows our minds to see how easy it is for conversations to come off the rails. You have a simple thing that you want to talk about with your spouse. It’s no big deal – just an idea that you want to share about the shade of paint that you think will be good for the living room. You approach him, you bring up the subject, and you dive in. Somehow, less than a minute later, the conversation has hit a wall.

Perhaps, you’re both arguing incessantly. You’re stating and restating your own logic, and trying to pick apart each other’s logic. You may even be using sarcasm, blaming each other for things that are decades old, changing subjects rampantly, and even making jabs at the other’s expense. You can’t even remember what you were talking about. You’re being called a stubborn mule and a manipulator… all because you like the color blue? Really?

Many great authors and researchers have studied the art of communication. Many books have been written about it, hoping to help couples make sense of the myriad things that can go off kilter, as well as the ways they can avoid the stressful outcome. I have read many of those books myself, and yet have still found myself in quite a few predicaments where my acquired knowledge has failed me, and I feel like a kindergartner in a high school senior’s class. Um… how did I get here? I think there was some mistake…

After careful evaluation of my own relationship communication, and after many occasions when my face has met with proverbial walls of resistance, I have figured out a few helpful tips that make conversations more productive. Without further ado, here they are:

 

1. Before starting, decide what the topic is. Then, commit to staying on it. Once one (or both) of you get off topic, get back to it… quickly!

2. Agree beforehand that you both will refuse to assign blame for things that have gone wrong. Also, agree beforehand that you will refuse to try to prove your own innocence. Why? Because, when you’re trying to prove your own innocence, it most likely means you’re guilty of being defensive – a common (and destructive) relationship crime. Usually, this is done subtly, with statements that begin with “All I did was,” or, “I was the only one who,” or something to that effect.

3. Agree beforehand that neither person should bring up matters from the past. Though tempting, leave out all the “would have, could have, should have” statements.

4. Commit to never using the D-word (divorce), or ever hinting at it – even in subtle ways!

5. Stay calm.  Easier said than done… I know. On this matter, you should allow your spouse to be the judge of when you’re getting worked up. Ask her to agree with you being the judge of her as well. And, you can both agree that when the other says, “Calm down,” it constitutes a need to pause and regain your composure. When you agree to trust each other’s opinions on this, you’ll be better off.

6. Agree to take a break from the conversation if either person gets hurtful, i.e., making comments like “Okay, Captain know-it-all,” or “you’re an irresponsible buffoon.”

7. Commit to being a good listener. In other words, neither of you should ever ignore the other person while he/she is talking.

8. Refrain from using indirect forms of expression, such as: eye rolling, deep-sighs that communicate boredom or contempt, saying “omg” under our breath, or doing anything that may be perceived as disrespectful by the other.

9. Never mock the other person’s good intentions. If he/she says “I’ll try,” and genuinely means it, honor that as a sincere statement, even though it may not offer any guarantee. You cannot force someone to change. The best you can do is get them to try!

10. Refrain from using always/never statements.

11. If you MUST criticize, be sure to criticize actual actions that the other has done.  For example, rather than saying, “You’re so lazy (which is a character assessment),” say, “You didn’t mow the lawn when I asked you to, and that really upset me (which is a critique of one’s actions, rather than of his/her overall character).”

 

Obviously, there are many other rules to follow that can help us avoid unfruitful outcomes in marriage communication. These are just a few of the important ones that I’ve gathered from my education at the school of hard knocks. Hopefully, they benefit you as well!

Best,

Caleb

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