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Top Tips for Communication

Communication is often one of the number one trouble spots in a relationship regardless of whether it is a new couple that is dating, engaged, or married; even families have trouble spots in communication. We don’t often realize that we have multiple ways of communicating to someone and that the person has multiple ways of perceiving that communication.

I like to say we communicate through filters. Filters are anything that gets in the way of communication. Filters can be past experiences, distractions around us, a bad day at work or home with the kids, or anything emotional going that is going on in our life. All of these filters of experiences can cause a multitude of troubles when trying to communicate and listen.

We also need to be aware of how we are communicating when talking with each other only 7% of our communication is verbal, 55% is nonverbal, and 38% is tone of voice. It is easy to miscommunicate or misread a person’s communication through all these filters and verbal and nonverbal ways of communicating.

The question is how do we avoid these problems and how do we make communication easier within the dynamic of the couple or the family?

Here are some top tips in communication to possibly make communicating with your partner or family a little easier:

1. Limit distractions when having conversations Ex. Turn off TV, make sure you are looking at each other, try to not focus on past experiences or your day at work or the emotions connected with the problems you are discussing

2. Set expectations before going into a discussion agree that if things get heated you will take a 5-10 minute (at most a 30 minutes) break and come back to the discussion when you can both discuss it with rational and clear minds (This tends to help keep a couple from saying things they will regret or can’t take back later). Do not go to sleep with unresolved conflict.

3. Avoid using You statements. These places blame and tend to make a person’s defenses build instead use I statements and take ownership of your feelings. “I feel ignored when I ask you to take out the garbage and it isn’t done” Instead of saying “You make me mad when you don’t take out the garbage when I ask you to.”

4. End poor communication strategies- Dr John Gottman refers to four unhealthy communication strategies that interfere with couples and even families. He calls these the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” These are:

a. Criticism- Criticism can sometimes be packaged as a question that implies the person has a character flaw. “Why do you do that? That’s just another way I can’t count on you”

b. Defensiveness- Often times when we receive criticism we retaliate with countercriticism. “What do you mean I never do what I say? What about the laundry? Is that all you can do, whine and complain?”

c. Contempt- When criticism and defensiveness are high they tend to lead to derogatory remarks, put downs, and extreme disrespect. Ex Not taking out the trash can lead to “You make me sick! You never do what you say you will so I will just do it all myself!”

d. Stonewalling- When the intensity gets to strong a person can shut down and decide they are no longer going to participate in the conversation. This tends to make the other person angry and drive their frustrations higher leading to another battle and another round of criticism.

5. Take turns in voicing concerns remember listening to your partner or family member is just as important as them listening to you.

6. While listening to your partner or family member actually listen do not be automatically thinking of how to reply or defend yourself, really listen to what they have to say.

James 1:19 (NIV) says Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, and Ephesians 4:31 (NIV) states Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Whether it is marriage or family conflict with your children it is always important to listen to each other and speak love and life as the Bible states there is the power of life and death in the tongue- Proverbs 18:21.

We must always be truthful with one another and speak that love in truth (Col 3:9 and Eph 4:15). We must also remember to confess our trespasses (or sins) against one another this means being able to admit we are wrong or not perfect and that we occasionally mess up, but we must also be willing to forgive and not hold those over the person’s head as something to use in later discussions to either get the way we want or make them feel guilty over something or as a way to condemn them and make them feel less than (James 5:16 and Eph 4:32).

These tips remind us that we are human and we will have conflict, but if we can put these 6 points into place and remember to practice them each time we have conflict, the end results can be a closer more fulfilled relationship.


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