Tag Archive | communication

9 Ways to Defuse a Disagreement

"Abandon a quarrel before it breaks out." | 9 Ways to Defuse a Disagreement (http://lovinglifeathome)My father was one of the friendliest, most gregarious men I’ve ever met. He loved people — but he also loved a spirited debate. Mom always said Dad would argue with a fence post.

My mother was decidedly not fond of fiery discussions. She has always detested conflict of any sort. Dad would often tease Mom, trying to get a rise out of her, but she would not be baited. He might as well have been arguing with that famed fencepost, for all the luck he had in drawing his wife into an argument.

By nature, I tend to take after my father, but by conscious effort, I try to follow my mother’s example.

Scripture says it would be better to live in a desert or in the corner of a roof than in a house with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife. (Proverbs 21:19; 25:14) My mother’s willingness to “abandon a quarrel before it breaks out” (Proverbs 17:14) made our home a more pleasant and peaceful place to live — for all of us.

Of course, you may not always see eye-to-eye with your husband. When there are areas of disagreement or concerns that need to be discussed, take care to do so in a calm, cool, collected, and consistently respectful way.

Communicating respect to your husband does not necessitate keeping all your thoughts to yourself. It does not mean going along with his every whim, even when serious reservations exist.

Showing respect is not about suppressing your feelings; it’s really more about the tone with which those feelings are expressed.

A disrespectful tone communicates, “Listen, you idiot, let me set you straight on this matter, because it’s obvious you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Of course, we would (hopefully) never actually say such a thing, but our husbands will sometimes hear these words in our tone, even when we don’t utter them outright.

A respectful tone, by contrast, first hears the other person out. It always gives thoughtful consideration to what is being said, even if the speaker isn’t able to articulate his ideas as easily as you yourself might be able to do so. A respectful tone validates the other person by saying, “I see your point,” before continuing, “but have you considered…?”

Many times, our husbands do things in a different way than we would do them, but that doesn’t mean their way is wrong. Go with the flow for as long as possible, then when an issue arises that you really feel strongly about, you will have stored up some goodwill by not having contradicted the two or three dozen choices he’s made prior to the current one. It is easy for our husbands to grow weary and lose patience when we argue and second-guess each and every decision they make.

As for preventing difficult discussions from escalating into angry arguments, follow these guidelines to keep tempers from flaring:

  1. Practice Attentive Listening
  2. Pay attention to what your spouse is trying to say to you. Hear him out. Don’t just pretend to be listening while you mentally rehearse what you plan to say next.

    “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” – Proverbs 18:13

  3. Demonstrate Genuine Love
  4. If you will focus on all the reasons you love this person instead of on the things that irritate you about him, you will be much less likely to say something you later regret.

    “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” – Proverbs 10:12

  5. Maintain Calm Voices
  6. Don’t allow the pitch to creep up in your conversation. Maintain a gracious, soft-spoken demeanor at all times.

    “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1

  7. Use Word Pictures
  8. Well thought-out word pictures and analogies are a great way to communicate a concern without being abrasive and accusatory.

    “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” – Proverbs 25:11

  9. Keep Sweet Speech
  10. Let your words be filled with kindness and seasoned with grace; do not resort to name calling or exaggerated accusations.

    “Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” – Proverbs 16:21

  11. Exercise Patient Understanding
  12. Try to see the situation from your spouse’s point of view. Be empathetic. Put yourself in his shoes to better appreciate his perspective.

    “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” – Proverbs 14:29

  13. Remain Cool-Headed
  14. Weigh your words carefully, always and only speaking the truth in love. Don’t be rash.

    “A hot-tempered person stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” – Proverbs 15:18

  15. Show Sincere Humility
  16. Rid your tone (and your heart) of all pride and condescension, neither of which serve any purpose but to stir up strife and discord.

    “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6

  17. Express Earnest Repentance
  18. Show appropriate, unfeigned remorse over any wrongdoing. Apologize for offensive things you have said or done without excusing your actions or casting blame on your spouse.

    “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” – Revelation 3:19

Through her example, my mother taught me that I don’t always have to have the last word; I don’t need to drive home my point; I’m under no obligation to convince others I’m right.

It takes two to argue. Isn’t it liberating to know that? It takes two — and you don’t have to be one of them.

This post is excerpted from my book, 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband. For more marriage encouragement, connect with me on Facebook.

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Is Your Husband a Problem Solver?

Does your husband like to fix things? Here are 3 things you can do next time he supplies answers when you're looking for sympathy...Are you married to a man who likes to fix things? Do you get perturbed when you look to your husband for sympathy, and he insists on offering answers, instead?

It’s tempting, when you’re upset, to interpret this hasty rush to a solution as evidence that your husband doesn’t really understand the situation, doesn’t fully appreciate the distress it has caused you, can’t adequately feel your pain. You may even think that his no-nonsense approach to the matter is just an attempt to shut you up, because he’s tired of hearing you bellyache.

I’ve entertained such thoughts myself in the past, and still have a hard time believing they aren’t at least partially true.

Yet, according to a growing body of scientific evidence, our husbands respond the way they do simply because that is how their brains are wired. (If you’d like to read all the fascinating details regarding this research, I highly recommend Louann Brizendine’s The Male Brain.)

Studies have now confirmed what we’ve all long suspected: Men and women think very differently.

A man can’t understand why his wife would waste valuable time complaining about something he could easily fix in just a few minutes. And a woman is equally perplexed, because her husband seems incapable of listening without taking on an advisory role.

Often, all we really want is a little sympathy.

We need to realize, however, that this is a husband’s way of sympathizing. Mentally searching for a solution is his way of communicating his concern, of proving that he cares, and of expressing heartfelt empathy in the way that comes most naturally to him.

Even so, it grates on us. So what’s a beleaguered wife to do?

If you want to avoid the conflict that sometimes springs from your spouse’s different method of thinking about and dealing with problems, then you really have only three options:

  1. Stop complaining
  2. Warn him ahead of time if all you want is a hug or a prayer or a shoulder to cry on
  3. Listen to his counsel and accept his advice

The first option — stop complaining — is just a good rule of thumb in general. Nobody likes to be around a whiner or complainer, and the more positive we can remain towards our life and circumstances, the better off we’ll be. Nevertheless, there are times when difficult situations must be addressed and discussed. So what, then?

The second option — letting your spouse know up front that you just want him to listen without offering advice — may (theoretically) help from your point of view, but it will probably feel like torture to your husband.

Consider how you would react if the tables were turned: Imagine your husband comes home complaining of feeling famished. You offer him a snack, try to cook him some dinner, point him to the pantry, propose going out to eat, but your every suggestion is met with fierce resistance. Not only that, but your spouse accuses you of being insensitive for even attempting to come up with a solution.

“Why do you always have to fix things?” he might ask in exasperation. “I haven’t eaten all day! I’m starting to feel faint! Can’t you see how upset I am? I don’t need advice; I need sympathy. I just want to know that you’re on my side — that you understand!”

Wouldn’t it feel a little disingenuous to merely pat your husband on the back in such a situation and tell him that you’re sorry he’s having such a hard time?

Well, that’s exactly how our husbands feel, too, when we put such constraints on them and attempt to dictate their emotional responses.

In the same way that you’d feel compelled to let your hungry husband know there’s hot bread in the oven, your husband feels obligated to share his best answer to whatever problem is troubling you.

And that brings us to the third option — you can listen to your husband’s counsel and accept his advice. Don’t automatically pooh-pooh his suggestions, like the woman in this video:

He’s offering you a fresh perspective, a different vantage point, so hear him out, then do your best to implement his most reasonable recommendations.

Believe me, I know this is easier said than done. I do not like change in general, so my knee-jerk reaction to any suggestion that we do something differently is to argue in favor of the status quo.

This usually backfires.

That’s because, in God’s great providence, I married a man who embraces change with hearty enthusiasm. You might even say he likes change for change’s sake, although life with me has tempered that tendency somewhat. (Isn’t it wonderful how God balances extremes in personalities by uniting them in holy matrimony?)

I’ve learned not to complain about trivial matters, because I know my doing so will trigger my husband’s problem-solving circuits, which will inevitably lead to some sort of change that feels (to me) like more of a hassle than whatever matter I was grousing about to begin with.

Unfortunately, this does not get me completely off the hook in the advice department, because sometimes my spouse will simply see something he thinks is not working as well as it should and will make suggestions based on that observation.

My husband is very smart, extremely attentive to detail, and amazingly adept at “thinking outside the box.” So why wouldn’t I want to immediately adopt whatever measure he’s proposing?

My inborn aversion to change is only part of the problem. If I’m honest, I must admit the rest of it stems from my pride.

The Bible tells us, “Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise.” (Proverbs 13:10, NLT)

Ouch! Isn’t that verse convicting? What makes me resistant to my husband’s advice? What makes me want to argue about the best course of action? The Bible says it’s my pride. “Where there is strife, there is pride,” is how the NIV translates it.

Whenever strife and arguments and contention exist, we can be certain pride is somehow involved.

It boils down to this: I want my way. I’m convinced my way is better. Is it better? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ll never know unless I hear my husband out. It is arrogant and stubborn and foolish for me to cling to my own way without even bothering to consider his ideas about a given matter.

His ideas are almost always reasonable. It would be fair to say that many of his ideas border on brilliant. We both know this, so it’s insulting and hurtful to him when I blithely discount or dismiss his suggestions.

Taking my husband’s advice does not mean I’m incapable of thinking through problems or coming up with solutions on my own. It just means I’m willing to consider his perspective and give his way a try.

Why not do the same at your house?

Don’t fight against the way God wired your husband’s brain to work. Next time you face a problem, ask for his advice. Then take it.

Doing so does not mean you’re weak. It means you’re smart.

What’s Your Body Language Broadcasting?

I’ve always been an avid people-watcher. It’s an activity I enjoy whenever I’m at the park or the pool or any other public place. Not in a stalking, staring, break-out-the-binoculars mode or manner, but in an alert, attentive, aware-of-my-surroundings kind of way.

What's Your Body Language Broadcasting

portraits courtesy of David Flanders

I especially like observing the interactions between husbands and wives or between mothers and children. I’ve learned a lot by doing this over the years — gleaning wisdom from both positive and negative examples.

One thing I’ve discovered is that you needn’t be close enough to eavesdrop on a conversation to understand what is being said. Body language broadcasts it all, loud and clear.

That’s a good thing to remember when you’re out and about with your own family. You never know when somebody might be watching, learning, taking notes, or — in our present age of smart phones — video taping.

That’s one reason I try not to do anything in public I wouldn’t want broadcast on YouTube! Ha!

But if I am behaving in such a way that I’d be embarrassed for complete strangers to watch my actions on the Internet, how much more should I want to spare my beloved family such scenes, both in public and at home?

It’s important that we remember communication starts before a single word is uttered, before a solitary sound is intoned. It begins with attitude and posture, with body language and facial expressions.

Think about what the following actions and expressions communicate:

  • furrowed brows
  • rolled eyes
  • a grimace
  • shaking the head
  • a distracted stare
  • an angry scowl
  • a heavy sigh
  • folded arms
  • narrowed eyes
  • an impatient tapping of foot or fingers

Sometimes we revert to such gestures and expressions out of habit — but wouldn’t it be better to change them to something more positive?

  • a warm smile
  • bright eyes
  • a beaming countenance
  • upraised brows
  • open arms
  • a heartfelt hug
  • a happy grin
  • a bubbly laugh
  • a friendly wink
  • a pat on the back

The actual words we speak constitute only seven percent of total communication. Facial expressions account for a full 55 percent and vocal tone makes up the additional 38 percent.*

Think about that fact, then ask yourself the following questions: What are my nonverbal cues saying to my husband? What is my body language telling my children? Is this really the message I want to send?

* Source: For Better or for Best: A Valuable Guide to Knowing, Understanding, and Loving your Husband by Dr. Gary Smalley. (I just finished reading this book and highly recommend it!)

25 Ways to Communicate Respect

Actions speak louder than words. You can say you respect your husband, but he’ll have a hard time believing that unless your behavior backs it up.

What does respectful living look like? Here are 25 ways you can communicate respect to your spouse without uttering a word. If you’ll make it your habit to do these things, the next time you tell your husband how much you respect him, he won’t have to wonder if you really mean it.

  1. Choose Joy
    It’s true: A happy wife makes a happy life. Please don’t use moodiness as an attempt to manipulate your man, but in all things rejoice, because that’s the right thing to do. (1 Thessaonians 5:16; Philippians 4:4)
  2. Honor His Wishes
    Give weight to what your husband thinks is important. Make those things a priority that matter most to him, whether it’s having dinner ready when he gets home from work or keeping the house tidy or limiting computer time. Don’t make him ask twice. (Philippians 2:4)
  3. Give Him Your Undivided Attention
    Yes, I know that women are masters of multi-tasking, but when your husband is speaking to you, make a point to lay other tasks aside, look into his eyes, and listen to what he is saying with the goal of understanding and remembering his words.
  4. Don’t Interrupt
    Have you ever been around a person who won’t let you finish a sentence? That gets old fast. Even if you think you already know what your husband is going to say, allowing him to say it without cutting him off mid-sentence shows both respect and common courtesy.
  5. Emphasize His Good Points
    Sure, he has his faults (as do you), but dwelling on them will only make you (both) miserable. Choose instead to focus on those qualities in your husband that you most admire. (Philippians 4:8)
  6. Pray for Him
    Ruth Graham advises wives to “tell your mate the positive, and tell God the negative.” Take your concerns to God. Faithfully lift up your husband in prayer every day, and you will likely notice a transformation not only in him, but in yourself, as well. (Philipians 4:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  7. Don’t Nag
    Your husband is a grown man, so don’t treat him like a two-year-old. Leave room for God to work. You are not the Holy Spirit, so do not try to do His job.
  8. Be Thankful
    Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Don’t take your husband for granted. Be appreciative for everything he does for you, whether big or small. Always say thank you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:20)
  9. Smile at Him
    Smiles spread happiness. Smiles have even been shown to create happiness. Smiles are contagious. And a smile makes any woman more beautiful.
  10. Respond Physically
    Did you know that the way you respond (or don’t respond) to your husband’s romantic overtures has a profound effect on his self-confidence? Don’t slap him away when he tries to hug you or make excuses when he’s in the mood. Your enthusiastic cooperation and reciprocation will not only assure him of your love, but will make him feel well-respected, too. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)
  11. Eyes Only for Him
    Don’t compare your husband unfavorably to other men, real or imaginary. It is neither fair nor respectful and will only breed trouble and discontent. Avoid watching movies or reading books that might cause you to stumble in this area, as well. (Psalm 19:14; Proverbs 4:23)
  12. Kiss Him Goodbye
    I once read about a study done in Germany which found that men whose wives kissed them goodbye every morning were more successful than those who weren’t kissed. Success and respect often go hand-in-hand, so be sure to send him off right, and don’t forget to greet him with a kiss when he returns home, for good measure. (2 Corinthians 13:12)
  13. Prepare His Favorite Foods
    Although the rest of the family is not overly-fond of spaghetti, my husband loves it, so I try to make it at least two or three times a month as a way to honor him. Next time you’re planning meals, give special consideration to your husband’s preferences. (Proverbs 31:14-15)
  14. Cherish Togetherness
    I love to sit near my husband, whether at home or away. Our church shares potluck dinners every Sunday afternoon, and although the men and women normally sit separately to visit, I like to position myself close enough to my husband that I can listen to the conversation, as I think everything he says is so interesting. At home, I’ll take my book or handwork to whatever room in the house he’s working in, just to be close to him, because I enjoy his company, even when neither of us is talking.
  15. Don’t Complain
    Nobody wants to be around a whiner or complainer. It is grating on the nerves. Remember the serenity prayer: accept the things you can’t change, courageously change the things you can, seek wisdom to know the difference. (Philippians 2:14)
  16. Resist the Urge to Correct
    I know one wife whose spouse can’t tell a story without her stopping him fifteen times to correct inconsequential details: “It wasn’t Monday evening, it was Monday afternoon…. It wasn’t blue, it was turquoise…. He didn’t ride the bus, he took a shuttle.” Please. Please. Please. Don’t ever do that to your husband — or to anyone else, for that matter! (Proverbs 17:28)
  17. Dress to Please Him
    Take care of your appearance. Choose clothes your husband finds flattering, both in public and around the house.
  18. Keep the House Tidy
    To the best of your abilities, try to maintain a clean and orderly home. Seek to make it a haven of rest for your entire family. (Proverbs 31:27)
  19. Be Content
    Do not pressure your husband to keep up with the Jonses. Take satisfaction in the lifestyle he is able to provide for you. (1 Timothy 6:6-10; Hebrews 13:5)
  20. Take His Advice
    Do not dismiss his opinions lightly, especially when you’ve asked for his counsel in the first place. Make every effort to follow your husband’s advice.
  21. Admire Him
    Voiced compliments and heartfelt praise are always welcome, but you should also make it your habit to just look at your husband in a respectful, appreciative way. Think kind thoughts toward him. He’ll be able to see the admiration in your eyes. (Luke 6:45)
  22. Protect His Name
    Honor your husband in the way you speak of him to family and friends. Guard his reputation and do not let minor disagreements at home cause you to speak ill of him in public. Live in such a way that it will be obvious to others why your husband married you in the first place. (Proverbs 12:4; 22:1)
  23. Forgive His Shortcomings
    In the words of Ruth Bell Graham, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Please do not hold grudges against your husband. Do not allow a root of bitterness or resentment find a home in your heart. Forgive your husband freely, as Christ has forgiven you. (Mark 11:25; Matthew 18:21-35)
  24. Don’t Argue
    You are not always right, and you do not always have to have the last word. Be the first to say, “I’m sorry.” Be willing to accept the blame. It takes two to argue, so “abandon a quarrel before it breaks out.” (Proverbs 17:14; 21:19; 25:24)
  25. Follow His Lead
    If you want your husband to lead, you must be willing to follow. Neither a body nor a family can function well with two heads. Learn to defer to your husband’s wishes and let final decisions rest with him. (Ephesians 5:22-24)

Proverbs 18:22 tells us, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” Do these 25 things consistently, and your husband will never have trouble believing that fact.

25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband - Read the post. Sign up for the challenge. Order the book. 25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife - Must reading for any man looking to improve his marriage.Did you like this post? Then you will love my book, 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband — nearly 200 pages filled with Biblical wisdom and sensible suggestions for putting these principles into practice. And check out my husband’s companion book, as well: 25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife. It’s based on his blog post by the same title.

And for those who’ve requested printable versions of these articles, you’ll find the list for wives here and the one for husbands here, with an option to print either article in its entirety or as a one-page summary.