Life is busy, and that can lead to effective communication being compromised. In today’s #MarriageMonday, we’re exploring how to let go of the “hinting and hoping” method of communication, and replace it with some better strategies.

Mark: We have a quick story to share with you today. But first, some context: One of our favorite things about the ministry we get to do is marriage seminars. In fact, we’ve been having so much fun planning for our No More Perfect Marriages Weekend Getaway in Holland, MI! It’s a lot of work for us, but each seminar is so fulfilling being able to see the progress couples can make in such a short amount of time.

Jill: I agree! When we do our seminars, we teach a session and then we send the couples off to talk about what they learned in that session. We give them a template for those conversations, telling them that it will likely feel awkward initially, but reassuring them it will deepen their conversation and really help them hear each other if they’ll give it a try. By the end of the day, the evaluations speak for themselves: People often say that they wish they’d had MORE time to talk now that they know a BETTER way to talk!

Mark: After each opportunity for couples to talk, we take a few minutes to debrief on how that experience was for anyone who wants to share. At one of our recent events, we had one man share honestly that he’d been using the “hinting and hoping” method of communication and had found it very ineffective. In just twenty minutes or so, he could see that this new way of communicating had netted better results than years of hinting and hoping. Isn’t that incredible?

Jill: I love that story. We tend to communicate on-the-go, haphazardly, too often filled with emotion. Here’s something important to understand–good communication takes time. It’s not efficient! Without some intentionality, our reckless communication contributes to the slow fade of defensiveness, the slow fade of disagreeing, or the slow fade of minimizing. (You can find out more about the slow fades in our No More Perfect Marriages book.)

Mark: That’s exactly right. So rather than hinting and hoping, here are five strategies for changing the way you communicate with your spouse:

1) Reflect Back

When your spouse says something to you, resist the urge to respond, add your thoughts, or even argue back. Instead, reflect back what he or she just said to you. Start with, “What I hear you saying is….” Then ask your spouse, “Is that correct?”  Then, “Is there more?” It’s not time to share your point; it’s just time to hear their point. Doing so will help your spouse feel heard and valued. It will also change the dynamics of your communication patterns in a positive way. Don’t worry, you can share your thoughts in another conversation. For now, LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND.

2) Ask Three Questions

When you ask your spouse a question, ask him or her three MORE questions or comments that invite them to share more before you share your thoughts about the subject. “Tell me more about that” is a great first response.

3) Validate and Offer Compassion

Say things like, “I can see how that frustrated you,” or, “I’m so sorry you’re so disappointed in how that happened.” Your validating, compassionate responses will allow you to build a bridge to your spouse’s heart.

4) Push Information to Your Spouse

When you’re communicating to your spouse, don’t hint. Clearly communicate information to your spouse. Ask specifically for what you need. Don’t assume he or she knows information or that they will see things the way you see things. Let them in on what you are thinking or what you need from them. (Need more encouragement on this? Check out this podcast episode!)

5) Don’t Use Passive Aggressive Language

This is an ineffective, masked way of expressing anger or disappointment without actually saying you’re angry or disappointed. “Whatever” is probably the most common passive-aggressive response found in marriage. And the silent treatment probably comes in second place. These are both just sugar-coated forms of hostility. Instead, learn to be assertive in your communication—saying things kindly, but honestly. Here are some examples:

Passive aggressive: I can’t believe you just walked up the stairs and didn’t take the things on the bottom steps upstairs!
Assertive: Could you please take the things on the bottom step upstairs? 

Passive aggressive: You never listen to me.
Assertive: I have something I’d like to share with you. Could you take a few minutes to set your phone aside and chat with me? 

Jill: Hinting never works. It’s an ineffective form of communication and only contributes to hurts and fades in your relationship. Assertive communication and intentional listening carried out with kindness and compassion will take your marriage communication in the right direction.

What about you? Which of the five communication strategies do you need to be more intentional about this week? 


Looking for more marriage resources? Start with No More Perfect Marriages!

No More PErfect Marriages book cover


Do you feel like your marriage is hanging on by a thread (or you want to make sure it doesn’t get there)? Consider our Marriage 2.0 Intensive that we host at our home in Normal, IL. We only work with one couple at a time. We’d love to work with you!

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