Unclouding Your Communication: The 3 “Ts” of Talking

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)

I talk with couples all the time in a variety of locations. From coffee houses to homes to my office (my favorite is talking marriage over froyo), I love that people are taking their marriage seriously by getting outside input.  Side note: Counseling (getting help) is not an admission of defeat; it’s an admission of your humanity and a breaking of your pride. I’d challenge any couple to take a preventative step further by getting some check-ins with a professional marriage counselor BEFORE an issues even rises.

The “communication” conversation is one of the first things to come up. Why? If you’ve sat through ANY marriage talks with me, you’ll hear me say, “Communication is the oil of the engine of marriage. You can run out of any other fluid and get by. But if you run out of oil, your engine is done.” (I’m willing to bet a mechanic will contact me to prove my car fluid metaphor inaccurate.) But the point is worth making: communication keeps the engine of your relationship running smooth. It affects EVERY aspect of marriage (conflict, intimacy, relationship roles, etc).

And when I bring up the subject, a very typical response is, “Pastor Dave, we’re already good at talking.” But this is where a revelation came to me and Anne early in marriage: Being good at talking doesn’t equate to being good at communicating. It’s why I spend time helping couples work on assertiveness and active listening. But you can have the right elements but miss the mark because of  “talking mistakes.” And many of those faux paus are in these three areas:

1 – Timing. When you need to talk, consider the timing of when you initiate conversation. Some terrible timing moments:

  • Hitting up your spouse first when he/she walks in the door from a busy day
  • Dealing with heavy topics in front of kids/family/friends
  • Confrontation when tempters are beyond being constructive
  • Inserting criticism in the midst of a great moment.

Your timing can squash a moment or enhance it. If handled right, it can be the factor to help pave the way for your marital communication to go deeper and get healthier. Ignore timing because of your inability to be patient, defenses will go up, frustration will rise, and problems will continue.

2 – Tone. As a trumpet player, I learned that a wrong tone can take a beautiful musical arrangement and make it excruciating to listen to. Tone in marital communication is no different (or any communication for that matter). Just because you might be loud doesn’t mean you are going to be completely heard. To add to that point, just because your spouse isn’t picking up on what you’re talking about may have nothing to do with his/her hearing and more to do with the tone you’re using. Your tone is an essential tactic to consider. It can intensify what you’re talking about or distract from what is really being said.  It brings emphasis and priority while helping to convey emotion when words are not enough.

Side note: Tone is carried through more than your voice. Your body language and facial expressions speak clear tones…so be careful about those.


3 – Technique. This is where you realize something that you already know BUT need the constant reminder (as I do): you and your spouse are different creatures.

You are both unique and beautiful creations of God. But the way you were raised may have had certain techniques of how to handle communication that your spouse may not respond well to. It doesn’t mean your spouse was raised incorrectly and/or that your family did it right. But it does means that you may need to step back and evaluate whether your techniques for approaching communication are healthy or not.

I very much respond to touch. So when Anne is talking with me, she’ll place her hand on my leg or my arm. Anne responds to quality/meaningful time. I’ll ask her to go for a walk (one of her favorite activities) and it’s there, she feels a bit more free to talk openly. I would highly recommend a solid book on communication (love the “Five Love Languages“) and/or sitting with a professional to get some help in developing strong talking techniques.

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)

Keep the engine of your marriage running smooth by constantly evaluating and developing your communication. Don’t be afraid to get help when you (both) are facing some struggles. Remember: Marriage challenges are not a “me” issue; it’s always a “we” issue.

Keep talking. Keep working. And always feed hope.


Thanks for letting me ramble…

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