How good are you at mind reading? How about your spouse? If you’re anything like us, you find mind reading to be a really frustrating experience — for BOTH spouses! That’s why we sometimes need simple communication tools to help us.
How many times have you heard (or said) similar statements to these:
“Well, he (or she) should know how I feel about _____ and how it would upset me.”
“He (or she) has eyes and must see I could use help. Why do I have to ask for it? No one would have to ask me!”
“If I have to ask for _____, why bother? Do I have to spell out everything I need from him (or her)?”
Do any of the above statements and questions sound familiar? In our 45 plus years of marriage, we’ve foolishly used them all, plus a few more. Since then, we have learned better communication skills. We agree with the following statement:
“When mind reading is taken out of the marriage as an expected form of communication, husbands and wives and families can be spared a multitude of unnecessary frustration.” (Sandra Aldrich)
Using Wisdom in Our Communication
In the Bible God tells us:
“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. A wise man has great power. And a man of knowledge increases strength. For waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.“ (Proverbs 24:3-6)
So to help us to wage a victorious “war” against miscommunication, we’ll share several simple communication tools from some gifted advisers.
One idea comes from Dr Steve Stephens:
“‘Often when we get flustered, we don’t listen to each other,’ Stephens said. ‘And then even when we start to listen we interrupt the other person. ‘He suggests that couples flip a coin to determine who will talk first. The winner of the coin toss then has three minutes to talk without being interrupted by the other person. At the end of those three minutes, the other person has three minutes of uninterrupted time to respond.'” (From article “Fight Fair in Marriage” posted at CBN.com)
Another communication tool comes from the former Smart Marriages web site. A woman explained the following technique, which helped her and her husband. They use it “when faced with daily decisions like: ‘Would you like to watch a movie?’ or, ‘Should we have my parents over Thursday?’ etc.” She explained:
“Sometimes it can be difficult to determine exactly how the other person really feels based on his/her response.’ So to take the guesswork out of the decision-making equation, we quantify our feelings about a particular proposal by ‘doing the numbers.’
Here’s how it works:
- “Formulate and state the question. State, ‘How much would you like ____?’ And then end it with a statement of action like ‘to watch a movie? – or – ‘to have my parents over Thursday?’
- “Pause a moment to come up with a number between 1 and 10 that quantifies your feelings about the activity under consideration. Zero means that under no circumstances do you want to do it. Ten means you definitely want to do it. Five means you’re completely neutral.
- “When both spouses have a number in mind, count out loud to 3. And then state your respective numbers.
- “If the total of your numbers is 11 or greater, then do the activity. If the total of your numbers is 10 or less, then don’t do the activity.
“With this system you don’t end up doing things that neither of you really cares to do, nor does the more forceful personality inadvertently impose his or her will on the more reticent or easygoing spouse. Because you share your numbers at the same time, it’s possible to express an honest assessment of how much or little you want to do something without there being as much pressure. Plus, it’s an easy enough tool for anyone to use. You can even have an index card on your refrigerator that outlines these basic steps. That way it’s handy to pull out and use whenever needed.”
Here’s another quick and simple idea:
“Choosing a restaurant can be a source of frustration for many couples. How often has this conversation played out at your house: ‘Where do you want to go?’ ‘I don’t know, where do you want to go?’
“Next time you find yourselves at a stalemate, try this method: If your spouse asks where you’d like to eat, you must give three options. He may either select one of the three or ask if you’re willing to reverse roles.
“If you agree to switch roles, you must list three options from which he can choose. Or if you don’t agree, he must choose from the original three.” (Tom Kennedy, from the Marriage Connection)
Sandra Aldrich’s book Men Read Newspapers Not Minds (which is now out of print) gives another Communication Tool you could use. It’s called:
The Creative Number Technique:
“While trying to make a decision as to whether to attend a family event my friend’s husband’s gentle resignation caught her attention. As she pondered the dilemma, she turned the invitation over. She drew a chart — 5 squares in a row, numbered 1-5. She labeled each square in a row from 1-5. Then she labeled each square:
- I really don’t want to do this.
- I don’t want to do this. But I’m willing to talk about it.
- I don’t care one way or another.
- I’d like to do this, but I won’t die if we don’t.
- Yes, this is very important to me.”
This lady’s husband surprised her with how strong he felt on the issue. After discussing the subject further, they came up with a plan that made them both agreeable with the decision. And as Sandra shares, “That good bonding time would never have happened if she hadn’t come up with a better way to communicate with her husband.”
This simple tool can also be written on an index card and put somewhere close for handy reference at the appropriate time.
Another communication tip you might use:
“Make a deal with your spouse that when you resolve the conflict, you will do something together that you both enjoy. This could be going out to dinner, watching a movie, or anything else that will motivate you to find a resolution quickly and then reconnect to each other in a loving way. ‘It just makes it a positive thing. This is because a lot of times arguments can go on forever and ever,’ Dr Steve Stephens said. ‘This way, you get a resolution and then just move on.'” (From article “Fight Fair in Marriage” posted at CBN.com)
If you want more tips like these you can find them on our web site in the Communication Tools topics. Also, if you have a communication technique that you’ve found beneficial in your marriage, please post it below to help others. It’s important to live, learn and pass it along so the positive ripple effect can multiply in its benefits.
“Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.“ (John 4:38)
The Bible tells us, “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” (Proverbs 13:10) We pray the above tools will help to leave pride behind and truly work toward approaching communication wisely.
Cindy and Steve Wright
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