Communication: Assertiveness & Active Listening
Men and women speak different languages. When a woman comes to a man with a problem, he wants to fix it. Men’s way of loving is to fix things when we’re aware of a problem.
When a woman shares a problem with her husband, she isn’t looking to be “fixed”. She wants you to accompany her on her own journey to solving the problem herself. That’s intimacy! What men need to do is not give advice, especially when she’s upset, but encouragement. We don’t have to solve their problem. We just have to listen, empathize and give them words or encouragement. This way, we’re respecting their ability and maturity to solve their own problem. After awhile of doing this, they may actually seek our advice.
A man’s sense of self-worth is tied to his ability to fix things or solve problems. It’s a way for him to prove his worth to her. A man rarely talks about his problems unless he needs expert advice. Asking for help when you can do it yourself is perceived as a sign of weakness. For a wife to offer unsolicited advice to him is to presume he cannot do it on his own. It may make him feel incompetent, weak and even unloved or disrespected. A woman sees offering help (unsolicited advice) as not offensive nor a sign of weakness. But she doesn’t understand how critical and unloving it makes him feel.
Another problem in marriage is when women assume that their husbands should “know” them. A common complaint for women is that “if he really knew and loved me, he’d know what I want or how I feel”. Not true at all! Women have “intuition”, men don’t. Yes, it is a real thing. There are brain chemistry reasons for this. Women, you have to be assertive in expressing your feelings. Men cannot read your mind. You have to treat us as if we’re just plain dumb.
Avoid statements starting with “you”. Be positive and respectful in your communication. But definitely let him know what you’re feeling.
There are two things necessary for good communication to take place:
1…Assertiveness…letting your spouse know what you’re feeling in a civil, respectful way. Don’t assume they can read your mind.
2…Active listening…let your spouse know you understand them by restating their message. Acknowledge the content of what they’re saying and their feelings.
Example…What I’m hearing you say is that you’re overwhelmed by your schedule this week. Is that correct?
Proverbs 18:13 says that, “To answer before listening, that is folly and shame”.
Proverbs 12:18 says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing”.
Watch Mark Gungor’s video on youtube.com, called “A Tale of Two Brains” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29JPnJSmDs0
Just about any video by Mark Gungor is very good. His “Laugh your way to a better marriage” series is great!
Here are some questions for you to consider:
– Do you feel there are barriers to communicating effectively with your spouse? What are they?
– How do you respond when your spouse is sharing their feelings with you?
– Can you express your concerns without putting your spouse down?
– How could you make it easier to share negative feelings with your spouse?
– What can you do to make it easier for your spouse to share their feeling with you.
Another thing that makes for respectful communications is to give your spouse daily compliments. The world can tear your spouse down every day. Be your spouse’s biggest fan and encourager. I don’t mean fake praise. I mean praise for the little things that they do. My wife always thanks me for taking the garbage out. It’s a little thing but it makes me feel appreciated.
Proverbs 16:24 says, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones”
Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver”.
If you must criticize, don’t do it when you’re upset. Anger blocks rational thought. Cool off! Maybe wait a few hours before bringing it up again. Be assertive but not negative. Say something like, “I appreciate how you take the trash out each week. In the future, can you remember to also bring the trash can back in?’
Lastly, give your full attention to your spouse when talking to them. If you cannot, then say that you really want to hear what they have to say but can it wait until you’re done with what you doing? Then when you’re not busy, ask them what it was.
James 1:9 says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters; you must be all quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”
Remember that your spouse is the main person that God will use to transform you into the image of Jesus.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Here are some questions to ask yourself and your spouse:
- What can you do to let your spouse know that you care and are listening?
- Are there certain things that trigger an angry response from you? If so, what are they and what can you do to not make you respond in anger?
- Do you feel there are barriers to communicating with your spouse? What are they?
- What can you do to help your spouse share their feelings with you, even if they’re negative feelings?
- When your spouse talks about their feelings, how do you respond?
- How can you express your concerns without putting your spouse down?