Recently when talking to my brother, we both shared separate stories of a childhood memory where words were said to us in a very demeaning manner. I was in 8th grade when a teacher ridiculed me in front of the whole class because I didn’t know the definition of a word. I remember feeling utterly ashamed. I wanted to disappear. Why did he do that? Why wasn’t he considerate of the effect that might have had on me? Why aren’t we all much more attentive to what we say and how we say it? What should we keep in mind the most when communicating so that we can positively affect and love others well?
There is a proverb that says: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Think about that. The very words you and I use each and every day are words that can injure, wound, shame, destroy, and bring death. OR they can bring forth LIFE! Our words can encourage, help, comfort, build up, strengthen, give direction, and heal!
Here are five powerful keys to loving well when you talk with your spouse:
First: Pause before you speak!
So often our conversation is filled with back and forth dialogue where there is little if any thought that what we say has impact for good or for bad, for life or death. Sadly as a result, we miss many opportunities to have a positive impact. Take a moment the next time you enter into a dialogue and look for how you can intentionally bring life to the conversation.
Second: Consider your words.
How often do you deliberately choose your words? How often do you pay attention to the very words people use when they speak to you?
Words have power and are full of meaning. On some level we all know this. We all feel the power and the meaning of a word when our spouse says to us: “You NEVER …” or “You ALWAYS …”
I flinch just writing those words!
How often have words come out of your mouth and immediately wished you could take them back! We are all guilty of such. Consider your words and choose them wisely!
Third: Be aware (or beware!) of your tone.
We all have tone under-girding what we say. And tone speaks louder than words. We may not like that. We may even try to tell someone to never mind our tone, but tone still matters–greatly! A harsh or shaming tone seeps deep into the core of one’s being, affecting one’s soul often even more than the painful words that accompany them. On the positive side, tone can enable us to say difficult things while still communicating that we care. Pay close attention to your tone!
Fourth: Consider when you talk to another.
On too many occasions–after I said something I was frustrated about–I realized I could have picked a much better time to bring it up. But too late! If only I had paused a moment to consider my timing.
Is my spouse stressed? Tired? Overwhelmed? Maybe not the best time! Am I stressed, tired, or overwhelmed! Definitely not the best time! Look for that time when you can be at your best to speak your concern with love and respect, and your spouse has the greatest potential to listen well. Never underestimate the timing for when to talk about sticky subjects!
Fifth: Take note of how what you say affects others.
This is actually quite easy, but not something I see people do very often. The key is simply to watch and listen. Watch their countenance and listen to how they respond.
Did they look happy, encouraged, welcomed, secure, and loved? Did they respond with joy, excitement, laughter, a relaxed posture, or a smile? No doubt your words, your tone, your timing, your thoughtfulness played a part.
Or, when watching their countenance, did they look sad, hurt, mad, shamed, scared, or sullen? When listening to how they respond: did they get quiet and walk away? Did it sound as though they might be angry, hurt, or defensive? It may be because of words you used, a tone in your voice, poor timing, or any combination of such.
Now, what will you do with what I have written?
If you are like me, you may need to go and apologize for words you have spoken, or tones you have used, or simply poor timing. While doing so is hard at times, it brings great rewards.
My hope is you will love your spouse more intentionally and deliberately in the way you communicate this weekend and beyond. And then do the same with your kids!
Which of the five keys do you want to start mastering today?