“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” James 1:19
The Bible heeds us to be quick to listen and slow to speak but we all know this can be very difficult in a heated argument with our spouse. In today's article, we will discuss the helpful speaker/listener technique to help us put a "pause" button on in our marriage arguments and equip couples on how to understand our spouse better.
We will take a look at two keys to communication and handling conflict well: Make it Clear and Make it Safe.
Making it Clear: The Problem of Filters
- Sometimes what we intend to share with our spouse is very different from what he or she hears, and we all experience frustration of being misunderstood.
- Three filters that cause couples to struggle in communication in marriage are:
- Inattention – This is when neither person is able to give the other their full- attention. (Example: Kids, TV, bad phone connection, feeling tired, etc.); both internal (boredom) and external (background, environment) in nature.
- Emotional States – What mood a person is in can affect how they receive communication (i.e. anger, sadness, worry).
- Beliefs and Expectations – This filter is based on what people expect from the other person. People often see and hear what they expect to see and hear from their spouse. Our expectations can influence the behavior of others; try not to mind read
Some of our biggest arguments come from what we think we heard in the past; Two keys to protecting our relationship from fruitless arguments from the past:
- Accept the fact your memory isn’t perfect – Humility 101
- Don’t keep arguing about what was actually said in the past – no way to know for certain
Making it Safe: The Value of Structure
- You must be able to fearlessly express your beliefs, concerns, and preferences authentically.
- Negative communication patterns make it unsafe to express your heart
- The Speaker-Listener Technique adds structure to your communication, making it safe to communicate
Rules for Both of You:
- The Speaker has the floor – use an object to demonstrate who has the floor (hold a water bottle, book, remote control etc...)
- Share the floor – you switch roles back and forth as you work through a topic/discussion/argument
- No problem-solving – focus on having good discussion, trying to repeat and understand what your spouse is saying, not fixing problems
Rules for the speaker:
- Speak for yourself – don’t mind read; talk about your thoughts, feelings; use “I” statements, don't use statements like "you do this", focus on your part
- Speak in small chunks – keep short, especially when learning the technique
- Stop and let the Listener paraphrase – your goal is to help the Listener hear and understand your point of view
Rules for the listener:
- Paraphrase what you hear to make sure you understood what was said
- Don’t rebut. Focus on the speaker’s message – you may not offer your opinion or thoughts; you can express any disagreement when you have the floor
- Be sincere in your effort to show you are listening carefully and respectfully
- Stay on the topic & don’t try to solve the problem prematurely
- Key is in making it safe and in showing respect for your partner’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions
Advantages of the Speaker-Listener Technique
- Counteracts the destructive habits/patterns (Withdraw/Escalation/Negative Interpretation/Invalidation
- Even though it is ‘artificial’, it helps couples keep a tight rein on their tongue
Although this technique can take some time getting use to, we promise that it will truly open your eyes to how we filter through what we hear from our spouse. By trying to hear our spouse and truly love them well, you will find that techniques like these can equip you to live out James 1:19 in your marriage.
*This article was based on notes from A Lasting Promise: A Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage