And How to Fix ThemWhenever I have the privilege of working with a couple in counseling, most all of them invariably express the desire to improve their communication. It has been said that most couples are actually good communicators. The ‘problem’ with communication is not that they do not know what their spouse is saying, but that they don’t like what they are hearing. While the content of the message may not always be true, in marriage it does pay to say, “Tell me more”, and “You could be right”. While many couples have good communication skills, there may still be communication issues in relationships that need addressing. In this article, I discuss three common communication issues that I have observed as a Christian counselor.
1. We Don’t Get Each Other
We Just Can’t Seem To Understand Each Other.
The apostle James captures God’s heart when he writes, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” (James 1:19). The fix for misunderstanding is to lean in and invite the other to, “Tell me more” – and to then do the hard work of listening. This involves choosing to actively listen for the feelings behind the other’s words and reflecting back the feelings that are sensed, read, or intuited. Mutual understanding requires the hard work of slowing down my own thought processes, choosing to reflect on the other’s feelings, and caring about other’s feelings. It is about desiring to understand, rather than to make my point, refute the other’s point, or offer a solution to a problem (which is not a necessarily a bad thing, but depends on the timing of the offering). Active listening says, ‘You matter,’ and is a tangible expression of love.
2. I Don’t like that Tone I’m Hearing
Tone of voice can either promote or discourage engagement; it is a posture that reflects my heart’s bent, my attitude toward the other.
In order to speak in a respectful tone (1 Peter 3:15), you may need to grieve and to forgive sin in yourself and in others, or you may simply need to ask for the help of God’s Spirit.
3. We’re Stuck!
We can’t agree to disagree. What do you do when you are at a stalemate and no one is yielding?
Jesus once said, “Remove the log in your own eye first, then you can see to help someone else with the speck in theirs” (Matthew 7:5). The most objectionable interpretation in a disagreement is the possibility that I am wrong. Even if I am not wrong in my conclusion or in my reasoning, I can be wrong in my pride, my tone, my intent, and my delivery. The fix is self-confrontation as I consider what hard message about myself the other is speaking, and ask whether there is some truth in that message that I need for personal change. This is one of the hardest choices because it may mean giving up control and the right to be right. It means becoming vulnerable, which invites more suffering but is the cornerstone for a greater good. Having confronted ourselves and wrestled with the hard truths, to choose to do the right thing regardless of what the other chooses to do is a vital step toward personal maturity and greater intimacy, especially in a marriage.
Christian Counseling to Enhance Communication
Christian counseling can provide a respectful and safe place for the exploration of self that is necessary for deep change. When the context is a couple who are working together to confront hard truths, pursue worth from God, make choices to do what is right, and persevere together through hard seasons, I have seen God work good. If these issues and challenges resonate with you, consider exploring Christian counseling with any of our therapists.
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“Senior South Asian Man,” courtesy of Sira Anamwong, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Image ID 100162234;
“Dinner Tension,” courtesy of Quinn Dombrowski, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0)