Timing and delivery are the two fundamentals of communication.
In matters of marriage, communication is all, and the most important part of it all is the ability to communicate about differences.
Two different people come together to collaborate on all areas of life means there will be differences! The main question is: do I have the “tools” to navigate these differences? Couples who can handle these differences in healthy ways achieve a truly epic state of closeness. It is often by sanely navigating these difficult conversations that the greatest closeness can be achieved. The reverse is also true. (And these tools are applicable in all walks of life.)
All communication comes down to two things: timing and delivery.1 Let’s explore these two areas.
One of the biggest mistakes we make in marriage is that we think the conversation has to happen. now! Although we have a loving and positive relationship, now I need to talk about something that I think needs to change. It’s the enemy called emergency. It’s the feeling that invades us when we think that everything must be discussed at present.
Urgency can be an enemy. It’s the feeling that invades us when we think that everything must be discussed at present.
The irony is that when it comes to changing ourselves, we usually need time. We ask for the patience of our spouse. Don’t rush me. I’m going to get there. It is complicated. But when it comes to something that I want my spouse to change or that I feel needs to be discussed, he Homework to arrive now!
From my experience coaching couples, I have found that it is rare for a problem to require urgent attention. Urgency is driven by our own warmth, emotions, and level of anger. It generally has little correlation with when something needs to be said. Of course, there are exceptions where results can vary dramatically if we don’t correct something in the moment (“Honey, I think you should walk away from the oncoming bus”), but, more often than not, the anger and the upset and volume that come with urgency will outweigh any positive impact of the conversation.
Is this the right time?
So ask yourself: should we talk about it? now? 99% of the time the answer will be no.
When is the right time? Make sure this is the time when you both have space for conversation. That means not during work hours, when the kids are around, or when either of you are tired or not feeling well. Find the right time, whether it’s a day or even a week later.
So many of the things that drive us crazy in the next moment appear as small inconveniences in the midst of an overall happy marriage.
Also, the longer you wait and allow your emotions to subside, the clearer and more specific you will be in discussing the point you wish to raise. Better yet, the longer you wait, the more you’ll realize that you can actually live with that thing that was driving you up the wall just days earlier. So many of the things that drive us crazy in the next moment appear as small inconveniences in the midst of an overall happy marriage. Time tends to completely relieve us of the need for difficult conversation.
Do we even have to say it?
Great, now several days have passed. I passed the initial tests and did not explode immediately, and waited for a moment of peace and positivity to bring up my problem. Here are the key questions to ask myself in preparation:
- Am I speaking with an enemy or with my partner to create a happy marriage and a loving family?
- Am I sensitive to the fact that this criticism may make him feel broken, all in the name of my desire to see change?
- Will I subtly imply that I’m fine, and that she’s the only one with a flaw?
- Do I seem oblivious to the fact that he may be facing and working on other issues in his life, and that this particular gripe, while justifiable, may be too much to add to the mix right now?
- Could it be that what he did was just normal human error, rather than an indication of a deeply negative tendency or trait that needs to be corrected before it spins out of control?
- Is that really his only problem, or is it possible that I’m also partly to blame?
How should I say it?
I could get the timing right, but delivery is everything!
Once all the previous boxes are checked (that’s really something to say, I’ve waited a week, we have positive energy), how do I make sure I say it the right way?
When communicating, it is important to assess:
- Body language: non-aggressive, gentle. Hold his hand and look him in the eye.
- Tone of voice: as warm and understanding as possible (the opposite of harsh or condescending).
Based on a study in the 1960s, people started to embrace the statistic that less than 8% of our communication is the words we speak. Although this statistic is not entirely accurate, the study has made it possible to highlight the great role played by non-verbal elements in our communication. We’ve all been through the scenario of someone “saying” one thing – while all the other parts of them are “saying” something else.
Now let’s go from How? ‘Or’ What I say to What I say. Here are the key elements that will help my words be heard:
- Treat him like an equal partner in a big business, not like an employee or a child.
- Show understanding, caring and empathy. “I also find it so difficult to…”, “I know how much you invest in it, and it’s amazing.”
- Make it “we”. “I think we both agree that we need to find a way to discipline the kid without crushing him, so maybe we can both work harder to never yell at him. .”
- Show her that you are there for her: “What can I do to help her? “I’m totally here for you.” “We are in the same boat.”
If you are not yet able to approach your spouse in this way, let it go for now.2 Your words won’t help you, and they’re much more likely to backfire. Set yourself a rule: if I cannot tick the box on these two communication conditions – Hourly and delivery – then it’s not a good time to have the conversation.
The husband and wife who take the challenge will find that the most amazing thing happens: you grow closer to your spouse in the process. Working as a team on an issue, even if it was originally identified by one of you as a lack or fault in the other that you felt needed attention, can create a powerful sense of unity and love.
- Rabbi Wolbe zt’lin זריעה ובנין בחינוך, shows how these two primary elements of communication are essential in the chinchuch of our children. They are equally important in all major areas of our lives, including marriage and work.
- I’m aware that someone who doesn’t yet have those communication skills probably won’t have the ability to just “let it go for now” either. His strong emotions will build up inside him and fester, and cause more friction in the relationship. Learning how to “let it go for now” without remaining upset and frustrated is the subject of another discussion.