By Linda Gilden, Crosswalk.com
Marriage is a wonderful thing. But somewhere along the way, there will be bumps in the road. Many of those bumps are caused by poor communication. Most couples are unaware that their communication is not effective. But with just a few tips, communication can be improved, and relationships can be strengthened.
What is communication? Many think the definition of communication is simply talking, but it goes much deeper than that. Following are some tips that not only improve your marriage but strengthen your relationship with your spouse.
One thing many couples don't always consider is the personality of their spouses. Personalities enter into the way we speak and the way we listen. Many don't realize it, but they are attracted to people with personalities different from them. Why? Every personality has strengths and weaknesses, and we often admire those who are strong in ways we are not. In the long run, that makes for an even stronger marriage because the wife can fill in where the husband is weak and vice versa, making an even stronger "team" than before. Maybe you are not even familiar with the different personalities. Let's see if we can break it down briefly and see why that is true.
Let's start with the get-it-done Mobilizer (some call this personality choleric, other names are also used. But most correspond with each other and it is easy to figure out which one goes with which. We will use words developed by the LINKED Personality System) The Mobilizer is a strong personality who loves to be in charge. They like to have a checklist with their plan for completing a task. In fact, they usually plan their next step before they finish the one before. Mobilizers make great leaders, teachers, and business owners.
Another personality type is the fun-loving Socializer (Sanguine may be the word you are familiar with). It doesn't take much to figure out this one, does it? Socializers love to have a good time. They can easily turn any kind of event into a party. Socializers are great storytellers and often jump into a conversation when there is a dead moment.
The keep-it-calm Stabilizers (also sometimes called phlegmatic) are the peacemakers of the world. Chaos drives them crazy and often prompts them to leave a room in search of a quieter, calmer place. They are intelligent people who love to read, solve problems, and learn about new things.
Organizers (Melancholy is another word people use for this personality) are your everything-in-order folks who love to keep their lives organized. If you walk into an Organizer's office, you will see a neat desk and bookshelves. The same with every room in the house. Organizers are not usually long conversationalists, not because they don't like to talk but because they don't see the need unless you have something valuable to add to the conversation. Mobilizers like to ponder before they speak and choose their words carefully. They enjoy being with people of other personalities and listening in on their conversations. Large groups are often tiring to Organizers, and they sometimes need to take a break during long meetings.
In a marriage, Mobilizers tend to take the lead and move quickly through chores or any other planned activity. But a word of caution to the get-it-done Mobilizers out there. If you are married to a personality who needs some downtime, is more sensitive, or enjoys a few-minute breaks, take it easy on them. Remember, they are not as driven as you are. Your approach to your mate may need to be softer or less intense.
For instance, Mary Jo is married to Simon. Mary Jo is a stay-at-home mom who loves taking care of her family. She is always on the go, moving from one job to another so she can complete her list before bedtime. Simon, the laid-back Stabilizer, comes in from work and often goes straight to bed. When they pass in the hall, Mary Jo often says, "Where are you going?"
"To rest." She already knew Simon's answer but hoped one time she asked, he would be willing to do something to help her around the house. Grace knew Simon took a nap before dinner and then settled in to watch some television while she resumed her chores.
One day over dinner, Mary Jo brought up the subject of his routine.
"I know, honey, but I am often tired when I get home. Resting makes me sleep better at night."
"But I work hard all day," said Mary Jo. "I look forward to your coming home when we can do something together."
After their conversation, Mary Jo and Simon decided that Simon would rest until dinner. Then afterward, they would do something together for a bit. This new schedule served them well. On days when Simon has had a rough day at work, Mary Jo could tell and suggested Simon go to bed. And if there was a day when Simon wasn't too tired, he helped Mary Jo a little extra.
Why are brief definitions of personalities important? Because each personality has a different style of communication. There is so much more out there than the brief description offered above. If we understand our spouse's personality, we will be aware of their communication style and be able to respond in a way they can understand and not be offended.
When asked what the definition of communication is, many people reply, "talking with each other." But it is so much more than that. One of the key components of communication is listening.
Are you a good listener? Most people would answer wholeheartedly and quickly with a resounding "Yes!" But truthfully, many of us struggle with the listening part of a conversation. We listen when we think something is really important. And when talking with our spouses, almost everything is important, especially when it involves the family.
Douglas and Josie had been married for many years. Douglas loved to go to the movies, but Josie had never been a fan of sitting somewhere, which required her full attention for hours. However, Douglas did not only love to watch movies; he loved recapping them in conversations. Josie had a hard time not mentally shutting down when he started one of his usual recaps. Seeing it once was enough for her.
But she should have listened to Douglas. When your spouse says something, it's important to them. So it is important for you to listen.
Another problem with listening to your spouse is for the one not speaking to interrupt before your spouse finishes. Many of us fear that what we have to say is more important than what our spouses say. But when you are planning your reply, you are not paying close attention to what your spouse is saying. So give 100% to your listening. If you are an Organizer personality, you will probably need some time to think through your response, especially if the subject is sensitive.
Speaking of sensitive subjects, you may both feel differently about the situation you are discussing. Subjects like finances, moving, children, and holidays may be difficult to resolve. Remember to disagree kindly. Agree to give your spouse the "floor" when it is their turn, and respect that. Only speak when it is your turn.
There is no resigning from the conversation. When you agree to talk, you agree to participate in the conversation. Allow your spouse to really get to know how you feel about the problem.
When you can't resolve a problem through conversation, you may need to call in a third party. If you reach that point, search carefully for the right counselor. Talk to friends who have used a counselor before. You may want to look in a nearby town if no one is nearby. It is not always easy to find a Christian counselor.
Here are a few things you can do to keep positive communication between you and your spouse.
You may think you have done the dating thing. However, you shouldn't stop just because you are married. Put the cell phones away and have a nice dinner out. Focus on conversation and each other. Be honest. Talk about the good things that have happened and share any family concerns.
2. Take unexpected opportunities to chat with each other.
If the children leave the dinner table early or after they have gone to bed, linger for some time as a couple.
3. Make it routine.
Make conversation part of a daily routine, even if it is just a few minutes before you fall asleep.
Ephesians 4:26 (NIV) tells us, "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." This is good advice.
Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Her passion is helping others discover the joy of writing and learn to use their writing to make a difference. Linda recently released Articles, Articles, Articles! and is the author of over a thousand magazine articles and 19 books including the new Quick Guides for Personalities. She loves every opportunity to share her testimony, especially through her writing. Linda’s favorite activity (other than eating folded potato chips) is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material!