IT’S NOT A LACK OF COMMUNICATION
You’ve heard it a million times. “Communication is the key to a good marriage.” This cliché statement has caused many an eye-roll in marriage, but here’s the problem…there’s communication in every marriage. Even when you’re not saying anything, you’re saying something.
It’s not a lack of communication that erodes a marriage. It’s a lack of good communication. (I can almost see your eyes glazing over as your mind begins to drift off to more interesting things, but stick with me for just a minute.)
I want to give you a simple approach to communication that will clear up miscommunication, cut down on conflict, and help keep you out of the doghouse. Interested?
Here it is. To clear up your communication you need UPS.
I’m not saying UPS can deliver a package that will clear up all your communication problems. (If that were so, I would have already placed my order and have my nose pressed up against the window awaiting delivery.)
In communication, the big key is in receiving what your spouse is trying to deliver to you. So we’re going to use the letters U-P-S to help you with receiving your spouse’s messages.
U – Understand.
Any good communication starts with understanding. Too often we jump in to add our 2 cents before we really understand what our spouse is trying to say. If you’ve done that, you have the scars and horror stories to show for it.
To make sure you truly understand what your spouse is telling you, you need to:
- Listen. I’m not talking about listening for where they’re wrong. Neither am I talking about listening for an opening so you can jump in. These don’t work…trust me! I’m talking about really listening to what they’re saying, to how they’re saying it, and to the emotions behind their words. This is hard work. You can’t assume and you can’t check out.
- Ask. If there’s something you don’t understand or something that’s unclear to you about what your spouse is saying, then kindly ask your spouse for clarification. It’s important to ask for needed clarification because responding to your spouse before you understand them is a sure way to make things worse.
- Feedback. Before you respond to your spouse, repeat back to them what you think they’re trying to say to you. Tell them what you’ve heard them say and how you think they are feeling. If you get something wrong, then give them a chance to correct it. This is a good way to ensure you know exactly what they’re trying to say to you before you respond.
Having done all of this, you would think it would now be your time to talk. But not yet! Be patient young Jedi. Next, you need to…
P – Ponder.
Once your spouse has communicated and you’re sure you know what they’re trying to tell you, you need to take a second to ponder what they’ve said. Not ten minutes…just a second. Take a second to ponder:
- Their message. – Think about what they’ve said. Could there be some truth to it? Do they have a valid point? How would you feel in their situation? These and similar questions will not only help you empathize and connect with your spouse, but they will also keep you from becoming defensive and formulating an argument too quickly.
- Your response. – Once you’ve pondered the validity and importance of their message, then you’re ready to ponder your response. That’s right. You don’t need to jump in and start talking until you’ve thought about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Ask yourself, “How will it come across to my spouse?” “Could it be misread?” “Will it help, or make matters worse?” “Is there a better way to say what I want to say?”
I know all this pondering sounds like it will take a lot of time, but really it only takes a second or two to do, and it will save you hours of misunderstandings and arguments.
And now…finally…it’s your chance to speak. This brings us to the final letter to finish out our UPS communication.
There are two things you must do when you respond to your spouse…
- Speak the truth. – Too many times we avoid speaking the truth. Why do we do this? Sometimes, we don’t want to upset our spouse. Other times, we’re trying to avoid conflict. And sometimes, it just seems easier not to say anything. The classic example of this is what happens when a spouse says, “Where do you want to go to eat?” A lack of truth perpetuates mental game-playing and an eventual distance between spouses, so learn to tell each other the truth.
- Speak in love. – Yes, we need to be truthful with our spouse, but that does not give us a license to be brutally honest or to use the truth as a scorched-earth policy. If you speak the truth without love, you’re intentionally being hurtful and they won’t be able to hear you. Your spouse may not like what they hear, but if you deliver it with a heart and attitude of love, it will be easier for them to digest. Take some advice from Mary Poppins… “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
When you get to this point in the process, the cycle starts over with your spouse going through the UPS steps. And you continue this until you both reach some sort of resolution.
A FINAL WORD…
Writing all of this out makes it look complicated, but it’s not as complicated as it looks. Trust me. Just remember: you need to UNDERSTAND what your spouse is trying to tell you, then you need to PONDER what they said and what you want to say, and finally, you need to SPEAK truthfully and lovingly.
If you learn to do this, it will be better than having UPS deliver packages to your door!