Communication - National Marriage Week 2019Marriage and Family
It is an art. I’d say communication is something that we are all capable of but for most it is something that has to be practiced and cultivated.
I’ve been married for a year now and I am still getting my head around the art of communication in the context of a marriage. Likely embedded from our experiences growing up, my husband and I can be quite different in how we communicate, especially in conflict.
This was something we were told to be aware of when starting out; to recognise the differences and similarities from our childhoods and our family’s communication habits. For example, my family are very quick to voice differences, sometimes interrupting one another and often with exaggeration, whereas my husband’s family tend to mull over arguments for a while, let the other person speak and sometimes not respond directly. This was a lot for the both of us to get used to: I would appear brash and he would appear uninterested.
Communication, and communicating well, is vital for any context; speaking with colleagues, family members, friends and even strangers. It’s the act of conveying meanings to one another, through mutually understood words, actions and symbols.
I think the phrase ‘mutually understood’ is the key here. Effective communication involves more than just speaking and hearing; these are the means, not the ends. Communication needs understanding. The many times that I have failed to communicate well are often due to my own assumptions about the other person, of their body language and their tone of voice. I very quickly create an entire scenario based on a couple of details, and without realising the other person has inadvertently communicated a message that they didn’t really want to communicate. A lack of mutual understanding led to miscommunication.
I’ve come to realise that we can never clarify too much. Asking another what was meant by their words or actions is crucial before we respond. However, asking that question requires vulnerability and trust. Allowing someone to know that they affect you is vulnerable. It will get you an honest and good intentioned answer – which might not always be easy to hear. Communicating in a way that leads to mutual understanding is hard work and it takes practice.
It is such a relief that we can look to the Bible for so much practical and helpful guidance on how to positively cultivate our relationships with our words and actions. Christ is the perfect example, a standard in which we should strive for. Paul reminds us in Ephesians to ‘be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you’ (4:32).
On the contrary, when we speak in anger, we fail to show God’s love. A helpful practice to be sure that what comes from our mouths is good is to be aware of what is in our hearts. As Jesus reminded the Pharisees, ‘out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks’ (Matthew 12:34). If our hearts are filled with God’s grace for us and the wisdom from His Word, then our words will reflect this.
I know that I cannot do this in my own strength, and so it is my prayer that God would keep watch over my lips, so that I would ‘be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger’ (James 1:19); to be filled with God’s love and compassion that overflows in my understanding of and interaction with others – especially with my husband.
I hope you can join me in that prayer.