by Lon Flippo/ April 12, 2016
The average couple watches 46 hours of television every week but spends only 28 minutes communicating with each other. That’s only four minutes a day! As a children’s or family life pastor, one of the most impactful things you can provide is training on communication. Healthy communication between parents fosters not only a good relationship between the couple but also among their children. Teach parents three simple steps to improve communication with each other.
Less can be more
Parents are busy. Their scarcest resource is time. Teach them to spend less time arguing over nuances and minutia, such as the toothpaste, toilet seat, and chores. Teach them to set aside 15 minutes every day to talk about their dreams, day at work, plan a vacation together, dream or discuss the strengths of your children. Couples must have rules for this time. They should agree on the rules. Here’s a list of suggestions:
Spending less time arguing and more time communicating will grow trust, intimacy, and support for each other.
A strong marriage requires healthy listening. Poor listeners cannot be good communicators. Communication is a two-way street. That means each partner must practice active listening. Active listening requires one to focus exclusively on the speaker. If you find yourself interrupting in order to get your point across, you are not listening.
Learning to listen requires a plan. For example, structural engineers design around a meta point. On a boat, car, or airplane, the meta point is the central point of balance or buoyancy. The future structure requires this balance. Marriages require the same balance in communication.
To practice this skill, allow your spouse to finish each thought. Pause, then respond by summarizing what you heard, “So what I’m hearing you say is…” Then conclude by asking, “Is that what you meant?” This prevents misunderstanding and accusations that hurt. We give our spouse a chance to clarify, “That’s not what I meant…” When we do this, intimacy and trust grow. Active listening also models respect and dignity for children.
Leave competition and hurt behind
Proverbs 3:30 instructs: “Don’t walk around with a chip on your shoulder, always spoiling for a fight” (MSG). Every couple must sort out how to navigate hot topics. Avoiding difficult conversations kills intimacy. Disagreeing in marriage requires us to view arguments differently. Consider whether you argue to prove you are right and your spouse is wrong. Leaving the “win at all costs” attitude at the door allows you to empathize and listen. If one of you walks away feeling like you lost, you’ve both lost. To create a win-win, consider setting aside the selfish need to prove you are right.
Scriptures to consider: Proverbs 18:21, Luke 6:27, Proverbs 16:23, Proverbs 3:30