Marital Communication. Interpersonal Communication. Bible Lesson.
I specifically had the marital relationship in mind when I was brainstorming this list. But the suggestions are relevant for any important or difficult conversation within the context of any relationship.
1. Time the interaction.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens . . . a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak” – Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7 (New International Version)
Usually right before falling asleep, when someone is going out the door or when someone is just coming home from a stressful day at work or school are not good times.
2. Plan your words.
“The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction.” – Proverbs 16:23
“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” – 1 Peter 3:7
Thoughtfulness, consideration, respect and honor – just a few of the things being taught to husbands in the above context. You may be able to get your point across (or get attention) by using harsh or creative language – but is your attitude and motivation right? Are you considerate of the other person by your choice of words or how you say the words? Did you ask God for guidance?
3. (Identify) focus on your spouse’s (the other person’s) needs.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29
“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church” – Ephesians 5:28, 29
In a word: consideration. Do you have the other person’s needs and interests in mind?
“To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.” – Proverbs 18:13
“. . . Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” – James 1:19, 20
If we can just learn the difference between (1) hearing, (2) understanding and (3) active/engaged listening, a lot of conflict can be avoided. Can you identify any active listening techniques (or examples)?
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” – Proverbs 12:25
“The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction. . . Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” – Proverbs 16:21, 24
Weigh the impact words will have on the other person. Consider how he or she might hear your message (not just how it was intended). Make sure compliments are credible and heartfelt, not hollow. Do not withhold praise for anything less than perfection. And when you encourage, don’t generalize – be specific.
6. Conclude the conversation on a positive note (or with prayer).
The content of the letters of the apostle Paul are personal, emotional, confrontational, instructive, controversial, uplifting and weighty. No matter the difficult circumstances, the people involved or the subject matter, have you ever notice he ends each letter with a prayer or with encouraging words?
For the married:
- Reaffirm your commitment to the marriage
- Reaffirm your love to and for your spouse
- Reaffirm the love, strength and grace the Lord imparts into your lives
- Reassure each other