Part 3 of 5!
You have taken your concerns to the Lord in prayer, you have learned how to find the best time to speak to your spouse, you have waited patiently and now the time is here! You are in front of your spouse and his full undivided attention is on you. So, now what?
Now is the time when all your hard preparation either pays off richly or yields little or no fruit whatsoever. The usual culprits that ultimately decide the difference are clarity and kindness.
As we discussed in a previous article, it is not profitable to make a man guess. Communicating clearly with your spouse provides maximum efficiency for your efforts in successfully discussing a topic of concern (please remember “successfully does not necessarily mean you achieve the outcome you prefer). Speaking with Clarity:
- Prohibits wasted time: much time is often lost when a discussant is unable or unwilling to speak directly about the topic that actually needs discussing. “Hints” are one of the most common and disastrous forms of this communication error.
- Allows for an adult-style conversation that directly addresses a concern.
- Encourages topic analysis and resolution to be made and instituted more readily.
- Is often dangerously confused with speaking bluntly: this causes much unnecessary friction and strife between subjects within the discussion.
- MUST be paired with the art of speaking kindly.
When we analyze the art of speaking kindly, the “Golden Rule” is probably the most commonly thought of example. Luke 6:31 in our Holy Bible counsels us, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” This is fantastic advice for nearly all situations involving other people, but it might not serve you consistently when resolving differences.
Why? All people have different problem-resolution styles. However, the most noted and studied difference occurs between men and women. Typically, men and women have very different problem-resolution styles. So, speaking to your husband in the manner you would wish for him to speak to you is usually not going to be the most effective approach. Statistically, what you view as a “kind” manner to speak is not going to be viewed the same by your husband. To increase your chances of effectiveness, you need to speak to him kindly, according to how HE would define kindly.
I certainly do not know your husband better than you, and all men are inherently different, but the vast majority of men share common problem resolution preferences. Most men:
- Prefer to hear the facts without a bunch of emotional add-ons
- Desire to be presented facts ONCE
- Require a reasonable time-frame to think a problem through and determine the best solution.
Thus, to communicate KINDLY to your spouse you need to follow these basic guidelines. To add a little more clarity, I will present examples of each.
- Men prefer to hear the facts without a bunch of emotional add-ons.
As we discussed in the last article, I will point out again that most men are fairly logical “fixers”. Additionally, most husbands do not desire for their wives to be emotionally upset. However, since it is not possible to personally change another person’s emotions, husbands will seek the root of the problem causing the emotional upset and attempt to rectify it.
Presenting your husband with facts will allow him to identify and begin working toward resolving the issue quickly. Unloading days, weeks, or years of emotion-filled frustrations of your own will only inhibit (or possibly completely disable) your husband from discovering the true root problem and fixing it. All time spent discussing your emotional status in finite detail will simply frustrate your husband.
I am not saying to hide your emotions from your husband. I am saying, that you need to present them factually, not emotionally. For example, let’s compare two possible ways for a wife to communicate to her husband about the same problem:
A. “Sam, I am really frustrated and upset. I have been bothered by this for a long time now, I don’t know how long, but I am just really upset nearly all the time now. I can’t concentrate on the work that I am supposed to be doing. I hardly even know what I am supposed to be doing anymore. Sometimes I feel like I am just tumbling around in a sandstorm and can’t see what is in front of me. I am tired of living like this, I can’t live like this anymore, but I don’t know what I can do to change it with you. I know I need your help because you are involved in this too, but it just has not been the right time to approach you about it because we are always so busy. I am not saying that what you have to do is not important. It’s just that there are other things that are important too, besides your normal to-do lists, and when those things are not done, it makes it hard for me to keep going all day and all week . . . I really should not have to say anything to you about this, it is a basic necessity of a healthy marriage and if you can’t figure it out, then (some sort of threat)….”
B. “Thank you for agreeing to visit with me, Dear. I have become extremely upset and distracted with a problem we are both part of. I am having a problem with the lack of lovingness in our morning routine. We are both so busy with the children, getting ready for work, and “beating the clock” that I don’t even get a hug and kiss “good morning” anymore. I really need the 30 seconds that it takes to kiss you and to feel your touch when you hug me to feel affirmation that you love me each morning. It really gives me the encouragement and security that I need to get a good start to my day. Can we make it a priority, please?
In both scenarios, the woman is speaking about the same problem.
Scenario A depicts a frustrated and emotional wife whom is very poorly attempting to communicate by venting her emotions to her husband and she does not actually succeed in communicating anything he can solve. By the end of scenario A, the poor husband is inevitably a frustrated wreck whom has no idea what he has done wrong. He only knows that his wife is a wreck, and he (Sam) is somehow to blame for it (notice her use of “you” and “your”). Very tragically, he even has no idea of if or when he will ever be told or figure out what has caused his wife’s severe emotional problems.
Scenario B, on the other hand, is still addressing the exact predicament as Scenario A and still depicts a frustrated and emotional wife. Yet she very well communicates to her husband (Dear) her emotional status as well as the specific source of her emotional status. Additionally, she does not attack her spouse (notice her use of “we” and “our”) as the primary source of her anxiety, but takes ownership for her contribution to the negative situation. The husband knows precisely the actions that have contributed toward his wife’s upset emotions and can very easily understand how he can immediately become part of the solution.
Clearly, Scenario B is the example we should strive to follow as competent wives.
2. Men desire to be presented facts ONCE.
The anticipated effectiveness of scenario B is very high, as long as it stops there. If the wife were to then continue on and say the same thing again and again, even with variations to her wording, the anticipated effectiveness of her proposition becomes significantly poorer with each repetition of the facts. Why?
The emotional problem and root problem have already been identified. Now is not the time to keep speaking (that will only delay and interfere with your spouse offering a solution…which is what you WANT).
3. Men require a reasonable time-frame to think a problem through and determine the best solution.
When you have spoken clearly and kindly, it is then time to wait patiently for a reply. The appropriate time to wait will vary greatly depending on the topic and on the man involved.
Some topics will not require a long wait. He may have a resolution to propose to you immediately. But, he may ask to get back to you after he has had time to think about it. If he asks for time to think it through, it is perfectly acceptable to (in a kind manner) ask him if he has an idea of how long he might need to think about it, so you can have the peace of mind of knowing an approximate time or day that he will have an answer.
Remember, you have probably had a significant amount of time to consider the problem, so you should not expect him to respond without a similar amount of time to consider as you had (groan!). I think I may have heard that! But, simple reasonableness demands that if you have been pondering this issue for two weeks, that you give him the same time that you allowed yourself.
In this case the “Golden Rule” certainly does apply. This may be the most difficult part for you, but don’t foil all of your efforts now by making the mistake of pressuring him for an answer immediately. He may have an immediate answer, though. If he does, that is fantastic, but do not expect it. Expect to wait and get ready for the fourth step!
Next Week (Part 4 of 5): “Being Willing to Compromise”