After being married for four months I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on communication. Even with my professional experience as a licensed counselor, I find that I am continuing to learn every day how to communicate more effectively, with love, and with understanding. This is not just with my husband, but with family, friends, and others I may come in contact with on a daily basis. Of course, at the moment much of the lessons I am learning about communication relate to my spouse because we are in a pandemic and those we live with are our main source of interaction.
As a counselor I have studied and learned about effective communication, but I find that at times it is even more helpful to hear what individuals are learning from personal experience. With that being said, I’d like to share some of the things I have learned most recently.
- Communication is a must! There are only 24 hours in a day and in those hours, we go through a myriad of emotions, triumphs, and struggles. While I have always prided myself on being open and communicative, I have found I tend to hold back from those I love. I don’t know if this is a struggle for you but communicating all of those things mentioned above leaves us open to vulnerability. Being vulnerable can be scary sometimes. But no matter what the emotion or the struggle or the joy, communication is vital to maintain a healthy relationship.
- Words are powerful. You may be saying, “of course they are, I learned this when I was young!” While this is true for many, I think it is a lesson that bears repeating over and over, and over again. In the heat of a moment words can come tumbling out. Sometimes those words hurt or misconstrue the message we are truly trying to convey. Choose your words carefully. I do a lesson with children that words are like toothpaste, once they come out, they can’t go back in. Perhaps you need to take a time out to gather yourself and come back together so that the words you use are expressed in a healthy and loving way.
Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honey-sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
- Timeouts may be necessary. I find that in families and relationships there are certain issues that are “hot button,” meaning they often cause big reactions or disagreements. As previously mentioned, sometimes a timeout is necessary so that all parties can come back together and have a productive discussion without a lot of anger or emotion. The key is that whether one party or all call for a timeout, everyone must come back together to find compromise or resolution. It is vital to not allow emotion to fester, but to be able to disagree kindly and respectfully.
- Active listening is vital. It takes listening a step further in that all attention is focused on the conversation and the person. Listening actively requires eye contact, not doing other things, listening, and reflecting instead of forming a response right away, and keeping the body language still and focused. Reflecting on what someone has said is incredibly helpful as it ensures understanding, and that each individual has been heard.
- Forgiveness is key! Even with all the proper knowledge and practice, there will inevitably be times when words will come out in anger and hurt another. This is when forgiveness will come in. The important thing to note regarding forgiveness is that you don’t do it for the other person, but for yourself. It releases another from the hurt they have caused so you are not carrying around that burden, anger, and deep hurt. Some of you may be saying, “that may be easy sometimes, but this person did say some really horrible things.” Forgiveness is not easy. It is hard. But it is incredibly freeing and vital for healthy, growing relationships. One important note is that forgiveness is not necessarily forgetting or allowing yourself to be in a harmful relationship. It is a means of letting go and moving forward, whatever that may look like.
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
These are just a few of the lessons I have learned along the way. I have no doubt I will continue to learn and grow in the area of effective communication. While it can be challenging, I am thankful I have the help of the Lord to guide my words. Don’t forget, we all make mistakes and hurt others with our words, but with the guidance of God and the willingness to grow, effective communication is within grasp.