Three communication tips based on wisdom gained from years (and years) of trial and error.
By Dave Boehi
See if you can relate to any of these situations …
Case Study #1: You are watching television, and the score is tied late in a crucial game … or a terrorist bomb is about to explode on “24”… or you’re about to learn what profit the home renovators made on “Flip This House.” Your spouse arrives home, walks in and starts talking about some financial concerns. A dark cloud of annoyance emerges from every pore of your skin, but somehow your spouse doesn’t notice.
Case Study #2: Your wife returns home from work, and she is upset about a conflict she is facing with her boss. After a few minutes, you realize that the answer to her problem is obvious—and you’d love to reveal your wisdom if only she would stop talking.
Case Study #3: You are cooking your normal Saturday morning breakfast for your family—eggs, hash browns, toast, fruit. Your spouse walks in and begins making comments and suggestions: “Do you think you could put a little less onion in those hash browns?” … “Is there a way to make sure the toast is not cold when we sit down to eat?” Finally you’ve had enough, and with raised voice you exclaim, “If you want it done your way, then why don’t you do the cooking yourself?”
Can you see the common thread that runs through each of these stories?
In each Case Study, the subject has a listening problem. He’s distracted, or too eager to offer advice … or too proud to discern the underlying reasons for the cooking suggestions.
Of course, poor listening is not a distinctively male trait. James 1:19 tells us, “everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” But as Dennis and Barbara Rainey say in their book, Staying Close, “Unfortunately, usually we are slow to listen, quick to speak, and even quicker to become angry. Most of us don’t need hearing aids—we just need aid in hearing.”
What advice would you give the subject in each Case Study listed above? Here are my quick answers, based on the wisdom gained by years (and years) of trial and error:
#1: Yes, your spouse could be a bit more sensitive, but if he or she really needs to talk, turn off the television and listen. If you don’t want to miss the rest of your show … well, that’s what VCRs and DVRs are for.
#2: Stop trying to fix the problem, and listen to your spouse! Give your wife the chance to talk it out, and you will probably get the chance to offer some advice.
#3: Listen to your spouse—who is trying to tell you that your cooking isn’t always absolutely perfect—and then recruit him or her to help.
I think James 1:19 may be one of the most practical verses in the Bible. Speaking comes so much more easily to most of us than listening, so when you cultivate the art of being “quick to listen,” you make a great investment in your marriage.
This article originally appeared in Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter. To subscribe free to Marriage Memo and other FamilyLife e-newsletters, click here. For the Marriage Memo archives, click here.