Mouth Open, Ears Shut

There is a Spanish proverb that says two great talkers will not travel far together. Why is that true? Because half of communication is listening. Have you ever seen people in a verbal altercation who are simply trying to outtalk each other? They look pretty silly, don’t they? But it’s more than silly in the home—it’s ugly and even damaging. For you who are just starting out in marriage, like the other things we have mentioned along the way, master this and you’ll save yourself a lot of strife.

Have you ever noticed how you can’t hear anything when you yawn? There is a bit of a lesson there to recognize: mouth open, ears shut. If the goal of communication is to learn what pleases your mate and how he or she listens, then it will be hard for you to learn those things if you’re always the keynote speaker in your home. I want to bring in some balance here lest you come away with the wrong idea. You are who God has made you, and there is room for your personality type in His kingdom. If we look at the apostles as a collective group, we will find among them the quick-to-speak Peter as well as his quiet, consistent brother Andrew. Jesus chose them both, so He obviously saw value in both styles and accepted both. Be who you are and let your spouse be who God created them to be, but both of you learn from each other. I think this point is best illustrated by the story of a young girl approaching her wedding day who was notorious for letting her nerves get the best of her. As the day of the wedding rehearsal arrived, she expressed her concerns to the wedding coordinator, who shared her usual counsel for nervous brides. She advised the young woman, “When you come to the back of the church, just focus on one thing at a time. Remember, walk to the end of the aisle, past the altar, and to your soon-to-be husband.”

The next day, as the nervous young bride walked down the aisle, the weddings guests heard her repeating to herself as she passed by, “Aisle, altar, him . . . aisle, altar, him . . .” (“I’ll alter him!”) Yes, there are adaptations to be made in every marriage, but the goal of one is not to alter the other.

Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” (NIV). If you’re wise, you will listen to your spouse, and from that listening, you will learn. As you seek to communicate in your marriage, never forget the listening portion. The goal of communication is to understand, not to get your point across.

Good communication also includes learning the effect of the words that you choose when talking with your spouse. Do they hear what you hear? Are they drawing the same conclusion as you, or do your words or the tone of your voice convey an unintended message? Listen carefully for feedback from your spouse. Don’t be distressed if your mate seems to have missed your point entirely. Remember, what is perceived is what was communicated, no matter what you think you said. Go back to the drawing board and try again. Listen carefully to your mate’s perception of your words, and rephrase your comments to more accurately reflect your meaning. You may have to do this several times, but remember, you are sharpening your communication skills in the process. You are showing your spouse that you are willing to listen and to invest the time that it takes to communicate effectively.

When making efforts in the arena of communication, be mindful that male-female differences are always going to be there. Both parties are going to have to accept that concessions will have to be made, to a degree. Personally, though passionate about my communication style, I am also a bit of a quiet ponderer. Small talk is very difficult for me. I have had to learn, though, that my quietness can be perceived as indifference, so I have to make constant efforts to get outside the box of my own communication style, including at home. Nonetheless, I will always be who I am. I know that, and my wife knows that. There is a happy medium for all to arrive at in male-female communication.

Excerpt from “Happily… Even After” now available on Amazon.

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