[Repost] The Best of 2011-12: 7 Steps That Can Rescue You and Your Marriage

Just over a year ago I began blogging.  This is the second of five posts that will be re-posts of the top five blog posts this past year.  Thanks for making this year great by reading what I have written and commenting.  I appreciate it!

When it comes to communication, I already have two strikes against me: I’m a guy and an introvert.

Guys are notorious for unclear speech when they do speak, and for not speaking enough. Introverts like to process by themselves and avoid interaction with people.

Do some swift math and you will rightly conclude that communication has been a challenge for me all of my life, and will probably continue that way for the rest of my life.

Here are some of my past pitfalls.

I don’t communicate for fear of hurting myself or my wife. My internal processor determines that my wife will respond a certain way; therefore I do not say certain things to avoid hurting her or myself.

I communicate unclearly for fear of hurting my wife or myself. My internal filters guide me to soften and blur the edges on what I say in order to avoid conflict, which only results in completely obscuring my meaning and intent.

I communicate harshly. This seems like an oxymoron, but because I fear hurting myself and my wife, and because I avoid conflict, when I do get the truth out my words can often be harsh because I am working so hard to communicate what I know needs to be said.

I am unable to verbalize my feelings and thoughts. Because I am filtering everything I say based on the supposed feelings and preferences of my wife I eventually replace my preferences with her perceived preferences.

Confused yet? Have a headache yet? Exactly. Fear of conflict, fear of getting hurt, and fear of hurting your spouse’s feelings (wanting to please) will introduce tension and frustration into your life and marriage. This tension and frustration combined with a complete focus on the happiness of your spouse will quickly blind you to yourself and make the simplest questions (What do you want to eat?) impossible to answer.

Familiar with this scenario?

Left unchecked these issues can ruin your marriage. Address them and you will see your intimacy soar.

Here are several strategies for counteracting these pitfalls.

1. Get help. If you are stuck in the mindless circle of pleasing others, find a counselor or friend who is very good at seeing through your verbal masks and who is able to challenge you. Trust me. You cannot get out of this cycle by yourself.

2. Pray. Like I said, you can’t make a change by yourself. God created you and made you unique. Ask him to reveal to you who you really are and to give you the courage to be that person.

3. Observe yourself. My counselor gave me this valuable assignment at our first session. For a week pay close attention to your moods and feelings and record them in a journal with your opinion on their origins.

4. Be honest with yourself. Admit the truth about what you have observed. You have to tell yourself the truth before you can tell the truth to your spouse.

If you have been hiding behind masks for very long this exposure will be very difficult. You will make a lot of mistakes and will probably need to ask forgiveness from your spouse for foot-in-mouth disease. Just remember that God accepts us just as we are, so we should do the same.

5. Value yourself. Value yourself enough to say and do what you need to say and do in order to be at peace with yourself and God. If you base your words and actions on what your spouse thinks (or what you think they think!!), you are placing the value of yourself below them. You are equals.

For all of you devout Christians out there, “considering others better than yourself,” as Paul puts it, does not mean ignoring what you think and feel at the expense of others. He was talking about humility and deference, something completely different.

6. Set boundaries. Allow the opinions of your spouse to penetrate only so far into your psyche. Far enough for you to consider the validity of what they are saying, but shallow enough that their opinion never comes close to compromising your beliefs about yourself.

7. Love through honesty. The greatest love you can show to your spouse is to be honest with them. In a world where everyone is selling something or pretending to be someone they’re not your spouse needs you to lovingly speak your mind, to be real, to be strong enough to take a little blowback and conflict.

How are you going to love your spouse more today?

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The 6 D’s of Communication

Caveat: I am not a licensed therapist, and I don’t play one on TV. Read at your own risk.

Yesterday, at the age of 99, my grandmother passed away and went to be with the Lord. She had a wonderful and full life, and she had a great impact on me.

Her age also got me to thinking about when she was born (1913).

A lot has changed in 99 years:

  • The crossword puzzle was invented in 1913.
  • The Wright brothers flew their plane only 10 years earlier.
  • Adhesive tape would not be invented for another 10 years.
  • The Band-Aid would not be invented until 1920.

In 1913 relatively few methods of communication existed, but today the list of methods is long and varied:

  • Email
  • Texting/Messaging
  • Face-to-face conversation
  • Phone
  • Skype
  • Snail mail
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • and many more . .

Since (thanks to Apple) we have all of these options at our fingertips, what methods of communication should we choose?

If my office is a 2 minute walk from my colleague’s office and I need to tell them something brief, how should I do that?

If I have to challenge someone on a difficult topic, what is the healthiest method to use? When should I confront them, and where?

I have struggled long and hard to communicate in the right way, at the right time, and in the right place with my loved ones and close colleagues.

If you are struggling with the same issue, here are a few things to consider.

Consider the geographical and emotional distance.

Geography: If someone lives in another part of the country you obviously are not going to be able to talk in person, but how about using Skype? If you need to talk to your colleague down the hall, what is stopping you from taking a brief walk? You need the exercise, and in person conversations mean you can see someone’s body language, which is at least 70% of communication.

Emotions: Never communicate when you are overheated emotionally. Put some distance between you and the event so that you can communicate clearly and kindly. For some things all you may need is a minute or two, and for others you may need a night’s rest. Just don’t wait too long.

Consider the details.

Don’t attempt to have a detailed conversation via texting or email or Facebook messaging. You need to see someone’s body language, and you need to be able to enter into a deep discussion without being delayed by typing . . . and waiting . . . for a response . . . and then . . . getting the rest . . . of the message.

Find a place where you can sit down together and not be distracted, and make certain you have set aside enough time so you are not thinking about where you need to be next.

Consider the delicacy.

If you know that what you want to communicate is sensitive and could bring an emotional response, avoid technology. Period.

A friend once told me that if you need to use more than one smiley face 😄 in a text to lighten up your otherwise heavy or difficult message you should stop texting and pick up the phone. That rule has been extremely helpful to me.

Also, the more delicate your conversation the more diligent you should be to speak in “I” statements. “When you do such-and-such, I feel this way;” not “You are arrogant and I’m angry about it.”

Is it a decision?

Decisions must be made in person, face-to-face, unless emergency and distance prevent that. Truth be told, there are few emergencies in life (a sale at your favorite technology store or shoe store is NOT an emergency!).

Decisions must also be made with all of the key personnel present. If someone cannot make the meeting, don’t make the decision. If you are overhauling something, always involve the person or people affected. Otherwise you risk division and bitterness.

Consider the delivery.

Give the grace you wish to receive. Just yesterday a drummer called me and said he might not be able to make rehearsal because of a family change in transportation. I had the choice to either get in his face or to help him. I gladly jumped in the car and made the hour round trip, and the resulting connection and camaraderie was awesome.

We as leaders can get so frustrated with feeling like volunteers are bailing on us. Just remember you are in ministry for people and not to turn out a product.

Finally, consider the potential for damage.

In relation to what medium you use, do you really want to use Twitter to ream someone out? Is Facebook the best place to vent your frustration with your job? Do half a billion people really need to know what is going on in your bedroom? Really?

Communication is a learned art for everyone and has the potential to build up or destroy relationships and the people you love.

It’s up to you.

How can you communicate more effectively and compassionately with your colleagues and loved ones?

7 Steps That Can Rescue You and Your Marriage

When it comes to communication, I already have two strikes against me: I’m a guy and an introvert.

Guys are notorious for unclear speech when they do speak, and for not speaking enough. Introverts like to process by themselves and avoid interaction with people.

Do some swift math and you will rightly conclude that communication has been a challenge for me all of my life, and will probably continue that way for the rest of my life.

Here are some of my past pitfalls.

I don’t communicate for fear of hurting myself or my wife. My internal processor determines that my wife will respond a certain way; therefore I do not say certain things to avoid hurting her or myself.

I communicate unclearly for fear of hurting my wife or myself. My internal filters guide me to soften and blur the edges on what I say in order to avoid conflict, which only results in completely obscuring my meaning and intent.

I communicate harshly. This seems like an oxymoron, but because I fear hurting myself and my wife, and because I avoid conflict, when I do get the truth out my words can often be harsh because I am working so hard to communicate what I know needs to be said.

I am unable to verbalize my feelings and thoughts. Because I am filtering everything I say based on the supposed feelings and preferences of my wife I eventually replace my preferences with her perceived preferences.

Confused yet? Have a headache yet? Exactly. Fear of conflict, fear of getting hurt, and fear of hurting your spouse’s feelings (wanting to please) will introduce tension and frustration into your life and marriage. This tension and frustration combined with a complete focus on the happiness of your spouse will quickly blind you to yourself and make the simplest questions (What do you want to eat?) impossible to answer.

Familiar with this scenario?

Left unchecked these issues can ruin your marriage. Address them and you will see your intimacy soar.

Here are several strategies for counteracting these pitfalls.

1. Get help. If you are stuck in the mindless circle of pleasing others, find a counselor or friend who is very good at seeing through your verbal masks and who is able to challenge you. Trust me. You cannot get out of this cycle by yourself.

2. Pray. Like I said, you can’t make a change by yourself. God created you and made you unique. Ask him to reveal to you who you really are and to give you the courage to be that person.

3. Observe yourself. My counselor gave me this valuable assignment at our first session. For a week pay close attention to your moods and feelings and record them in a journal with your opinion on their origins.

4. Be honest with yourself. Admit the truth about what you have observed. You have to tell yourself the truth before you can tell the truth to your spouse.

If you have been hiding behind masks for very long this exposure will be very difficult. You will make a lot of mistakes and will probably need to ask forgiveness from your spouse for foot-in-mouth disease. Just remember that God accepts us just as we are, so we should do the same.

5. Value yourself. Value yourself enough to say and do what you need to say and do in order to be at peace with yourself and God. If you base your words and actions on what your spouse thinks (or what you think they think!!), you are placing the value of yourself below them. You are equals.

For all of you devout Christians out there, “considering others better than yourself,” as Paul puts it, does not mean ignoring what you think and feel at the expense of others. He was talking about humility and deference, something completely different.

6. Set boundaries. Allow the opinions of your spouse to penetrate only so far into your psyche. Far enough for you to consider the validity of what they are saying, but shallow enough that their opinion never comes close to compromising your beliefs about yourself.

7. Love through honesty. The greatest love you can show to your spouse is to be honest with them. In a world where everyone is selling something or pretending to be someone they’re not your spouse needs you to lovingly speak your mind, to be real, to be strong enough to take a little blowback and conflict.

How are you going to love your spouse more today?