Communication: It’s Not Just About Talking (Part 2)

Last week we talked about our words and how our words can bring life or death to those around us. Communication, or talking to our spouse or family members, is not just about our words. Communication also involves the tone of our voice. You may have heard the phrase, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” Has this ever come up in conversation? If we want to be successful in our communication, we need to make sure we’re not “tone deaf.”

You may find yourself impaired in the rhythm and music department. You still find yourself breaking out in dance or singing to a tune in the shower or in the car, even though you don’t quite dance to the beat or sing in the best key. This doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy it. The funny thing is, it may take us a while to realize we wouldn’t qualify to be a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance or American Idol. Over the years, our kids or friends have assured us of this reality, and we can no longer live in denial that we are tone deaf. Can’t carry a tune. Can’t bust a move.

If you’re not careful with your communication tone in your marriage, you can quickly become “tone-deaf.” Even when the words we speak are true, and with love, sometimes these words are delivered with a negative tone, triggering a different reaction than if we had spoken in a positive tone. For example, you may have heard the statement, “We’re going to be late.” This may be a statement of fact, but where this simple statement can get ugly, hurtful, and trigger an-argument-waiting-to-happen is when it is spoken in a sneering or patronizing tone. These words of truth, “We’re going to be late” can blare in our partner’s ears, “We’re going to be late and it’s all your fault and you do this all the time and I’m tired of waiting for you and being late everywhere because you can’t get it together.” Five words of truth and twenty-nine words added because of the tone. Tone matters.

As you think about your communication patterns, remember that it’s not just about the words you speak, it’s also the tone you project in the words you speak. Negativity, sarcasm, whining, shaming, and insincerity are more about tone than words. Even if your spouse can barely hear the words you speak, they can absolutely feel and hear your tone, often causing a defensive reaction or response. So, how can we work on this?

Authors Jim Burns and Doug Fields give us four possible triggers that can possibly lead to a damaging tone in a conversation or situation. These common triggers can turn an unpleasant moment to a negative one with the way your words are delivered. Snap. Just like that. These four triggers are found in the letters H-A-L-T.

Hunger

The apostle Paul tell us, “Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit…So glorify God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20) According to experts, our body is linked to our spirit and our actions, and even our responses to others. We may not think of it often, but one of the first steps to a healthy relationship is in how we take care of our bodies. You know the term, “Hangry.” Hungry and angry. Yeah. That one. When people get hungry, they get grouchy and cranky. You may remember times when you and your spouse have had such crazy days and you both come home hungry – or even famished – causing your bodies and your attitudes to be on edge. When our tummy growls and we’re looking for a snack to tide us over until dinner, we’re usually more selfish and not as sensitive to our spouse’s needs. I know, it sounds weird that we’re talking about eating when talking about communication in marriage, but hunger can be the culprit in so many arguments. You may remember some unnecessary conflict when one or both of you felt run down or in need of some calories. It’s tough to pay attention, let alone adjust your tone, when your body and mind are muddled by hunger. Snickers used to have a funny slogan for their candy bar, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” So true.

Anger

Anger is one of the most common causes for many poor responses. Anger is a normal emotion; it’s not bad. Anger gets ugly when it’s conveyed in a matter to hurt someone. In marriage, if anger is not mastered, then discontent, grudges, bitterness, and resentment can affect your relationship. When this occurs, the spoken tone can go south in a hurry. We are given such helpful instruction on how to control our anger in the Bible: “Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” (Ephesians 4:26) This isn’t telling you to never get angry. It instructs you to deal with your anger in a more positive manner, so it doesn’t fester and drag on for days. Our spouse’s little annoying quirks can turn into larger-than-life issues if anger is not dealt with right away. Anger and tone go hand-in-hand, and if you want to prevent yourself from being tone deaf, you’ve got to master the anger piece.

Loneliness

After you get married, there tend to be fewer times and opportunities for connection. This is when loneliness can creep in. Wives often want their husbands to talk more, hoping that the words will create moments of connection. There’s nothing like some belly laughing, fun times to bring a couple together, improving the tone in the process. When you’re feeling lonely, you don’t feel as connected, and when you don’t feel connected, the negative tone can roll in.

Tiredness

Oh, this is a biggie. Many couples have the desire to connect, but, seriously, they are just too tired. Jim Burns and Doug Fields say, “Exhaustion is one of the major causes of brokenness in relationships as well as poor tone quality.” (Burns & Fields, Getting Ready for Marriage, David D. Cook, 2014) If you find yourself a little rude, short, or abrupt in responses toward your fiancé or spouse, then you may be too distracted or too busy. If you come across as negative, impatient, or grouchy, you may be dangerously exhausted. This is when we’re reminded of some important and powerful words in our lives, “Yes” and “No.” When you say “no” to the extra clutter and busyness and “yes” to the things that are a priority in your life, you create a good and healthy attitude. I know you have so many things tugging on you in life, but not everything deserves a “yes” response. Be cognizant of your schedule to avoid a negative tone in your communication with your spouse.

A question every couple needs to ask each other often: “Do our schedules impact the tone between the two of us?” One man that had gone through a divorce reflected on his relationship and said, “We loved each other. As odd as that sounds, a lack of love wasn’t the problem. It was our out-of-control, runaway schedules that eventually dulled our relationship. When we were busy, stressed, and preoccupied, we began to treat each other terribly. We just had nothing left to give. We were making each other miserable, and we finally ended it.” (Burns & Fields, 2014) This marriage could have been saved had this man and his wife learned how to rearrange their schedules so they could slow down and connect. I encourage you, be mindful of this. I once heard, “If the enemy can’t turn you against God, he’s going to distract you and make you busy.” And he is waiting to attack marriages this way.

To Do This Week:

Pull out those calendars. Look at your schedules. Has your work schedule become a higher priority than your care for your spouse? Here’s how you can get a simple answer. Ask him. Ask her. Pray with your spouse, ask him/her to look at your calendars and schedules to point out things that could be affecting your relationship, things that you can say “no” to or maybe “not this season.” “No” is a complete sentence, friends. “No” is a powerful word.

Recognize the things that cause a negative attitude. It’s easy to bring tough work situations or hard days with the kids into our relationship. Spend some time talking through even the simple things that irk you. By addressing this early, it doesn’t allow the negativity and crankiness to fester and eventually come out in our words or body language.

Slow down and get some rest. I realize this is easier said than done. Do what you can to get plenty of sleep or even to allow yourselves periods of time to just be still and quiet, to breathe, to pray, to JUST. BE.

Content based on one of many fabulous resources: Getty Ready for Marriage by Jim Burns & Doug Fields. A great book for you dating, engaged, and married couples. Visit their website: HomeWord. Jim and Doug believe in STRONG MARRIAGES, CONFIDENT PARENTS, and EMPOWERED KIDS and have partnered together to strengthen and equip parents, couples, and families.

Communication: It’s Not Just About Talking (Part 1)

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Communication is the key that opens the door to a healthy and secure marriage. You use communication to pass on information or news to your spouse. The thing is, you may think communication only has to do with the words you speak, when in reality, talking itself plays a very small part in the way you communicate with each other. Be sure to follow the blog for the next two weeks (posts) to learn two other forms of communication- Tone and Nonverbal.

Words

There is great power in the words you speak. You use your words to affirm your spouse, to empower or encourage your spouse, and even to speak a blessing over him/her. But, unfortunately, your words can also wound, hurt, and destroy. A verse in Proverbs says, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). It’s interesting, although your words are powerful, they are not as powerful as other ways you communicate with your spouse. Many marriages are strengthened with kindness and encouragement, but, sadly, many have been wrecked because of angry and mean-spirited words. Some couples may guard themselves to a negative extreme and just stop talking altogether. That isn’t what God has in mind for marriages. Perhaps, a better answer would be to hold back on saying what you are actually thinking. If the words you are thinking are going to hurt your spouse, it’s better to not say them. Be wise and keep your mouth shut.

To grow a healthy marriage, you will need to learn how your words can create intimate conversation, share your feelings, express your needs, inform your spouse, or just bring some fun into the marriage. The words between you and your spouse are so powerful! The key is learning what to say and, most importantly, what not to say- which is often a little difficult.

Even if your words aren’t pointed directly at your spouse personally, it can negatively affect him/her. For example, complaining. This form of destructive talk can wear others down, and if done regularly, it can be a drain on your marriage. Complaints come as a result of the negative thoughts in your mind. It’s imperative to take control of this gloomy behavior before it puts a damper on your marriage (or other relationships).

Another way your words can affect your marriage: Putting down or criticizing your spouse in front of others. Putting down your spouse in public never works. Even if you’re trying to be funny and think what you’re saying is harmless, there will be friction. Even innocent “sarcasm” or “jokes” can hurt your spouse’s feelings. Your words can leave emotional scars and it is just not worth the risk. There’s hope, friends! You can improve in your communication skills, starting with your words. Here are a couple things you can work on this week.

To do this week:

Implement a communication rule for you and your spouse: compliment daily. Many partners in a marriage are starving for affirmation from their spouse. Take the time this week to intentionally affirm your spouse- his/her character, his/her work, his/her parenting, his/her friendship, etc. You’d be surprised how the right words, spoken at just the right time can make a big difference. Mark Twain once said, “I can go two months with one good compliment.” Pray together, asking the Holy Spirit to be poured over you so the words you speak will be God-honoring and affirming to your spouse. Ask God to point out the good qualities in your spouse.

Be mindful of complaining. How many days does it take to start a new habit? Twenty-one straight days. For the next few weeks, have some fun with your spouse. Hold each other accountable when complaints surface. Perhaps you could put a jar on the counter, and each time you complain, you put $1 in the jar. Hopefully you won’t have much money in there; however, this is a tangible tool to see how many complaints are actually coming out of your mouths.

Content based on one of many fabulous resources: Getty Ready for Marriage by Jim Burns & Doug Fields. A great book for you dating, engaged, and married couples. Visit their website: HomeWord. Jim and Doug believe in STRONG MARRIAGES, CONFIDENT PARENTS, and EMPOWERED KIDS and have partnered together to strengthen and equip parents, couples, and families.

Beyond “I do”

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God has specific plans for husbands and wives. It was so important that he gave husbands and wives a role and told us what we are to do and be as husband and wife. Do you think God’s wisdom and encouragement for couples was a “one-and-done” deal once you say, “I do?” No. God’s Word is alive and breathing and it is meant for each and every day of our married lives. His Word requires action, rather than feeling. God encourages community, rather than isolation. He created married couples for unity with one another, as well as to be “one” with the church.

At NorthPointe, we see marriage as a vital part of our community and are committed to strengthening and supporting marriages. Our purpose is to encourage couples while guiding them away from unhealthy habits and toward a deeper understanding of God’s purpose and plan for marriage. Our mission is for couples to become fully-developing followers of Jesus Christ at every stage of life in their relationship- Dating, Engaged, Married (two months or 62 years or in a blended family).

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.

Ephesians 5:31-33

We offer a variety of events and couples’ studies throughout the year that are committed to inspiring couples to grow closer together and closer to God. Whether it’s at our Married Couples’ Conference, Marriage Retreat, one of our fun Game Nights, or a dessert get-together, you’ll meet other couples who want the same thing as you: to see their marriage succeed and be as God-honoring and fulfilling as He intends it to be.

Join the community! Find us on Instagram @npmarriage and be sure to bookmark the blog here for weekly encouragement, resources to improve your marriage, ideas on how to have fun in your marriage, as well information about upcoming studies and events.

Joy in Him,

NorthPointe Marriage Ministry