Last night I finished Jim Newheiser's excellent book Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage. It is structured around some of the important questions many of us ask about marriage at some point or another. He covers the basics very well and is very careful, Biblical, and congenial in handling some of the more debated topics. I would recommend it as a helpful resource to anyone shepherding or counseling others through relationships.
I was especially blessed and convicted by the chapter on communication. While the counsel given was intended for married couples to improve their communication, much of it applies throughout our lives as communication is one of the most basic facts of human existence and one of the most basic ways we bless other people. Without further ado, here are some of the most helpful quotes:
Commit to communicate: "...virtually all communication techniques have the potential to help simply because a couple is finally devoting blocks of time to listen and speak carefully." In other words, the will to communicate well is more important than the skills to communicate well.
The Goal of Communication is Love: "Every couple's goal should be to understand how much and what kind of communication each spouse desires and then do everything possible to satisfy that requirement. As Paul writes, 'Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself.' (Rom. 15:2-3a)"
Learn to Listen in Love: "Communication is most effective when you approach a conversation with a sincere desire to carefully hear what the other person is saying...If you are striving for Christlikeness, you will be committed to exerting effort to understand your spouse." (See James 1:19 and Phil. 2:3-5)
Learn to Speak in Love: "...your spouse needs you to share your inner life with him or her...use your speech to build up. Offer affirmation, encouragement, and thanksgiving to your spouse whenever possible." (See Eph. 4:29)
Learn to Communicate on a Deeper Level: Work hard to move past the superficial. Learn how your communication partner receives communication. "...recognize that different people have varied needs and desires when it comes to communicating love." Communication is a means for us to serve others, which takes thoughtfulness and a willingness to adapt ourselves to others.
Beware of Communication Killers: Realizing the power of words to harm (Pro. 18:21), do everything possible to avoid all forms of lying (Pro. 26:28). Put away angry, cruel words: "Words once spoken can never be taken back and may painfully echo in the ears of a wounded spouse for many years." Stop interrupting; it communicates how little you value the other person. Weed out grumbling, nagging, and complaining, which all breed bitterness. "Finally, silence can be as hurtful as unkind words." And while you're thinking about it, pay attention to your nonverbal communication.
Experience has taught me that some are more gifted communicators than others, but that everyone can benefit from prayerful examination of how we interact with others, especially those closest to us. While some types of communication are spiritual gifts, communication as a whole is a skill in which most people can see improvement.
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
keep watch over the door of my lips!