Principals for Effective Communication and Conflict

Part 1—Say What You (Really) Mean; Mean What You Say
Say what you mean:

It’s often much harder to state what you really want or desire from your spouse, but doing so will save much heartache and frustration in the long run. If you will work to be authentic in words and deeds and avoid playing emotional “games” with each other, it will go a long way towards “saying what you (really) mean.” An example of this would be instead of making an under-the-breath remark about how long it’s been since you’ve had sex, tell your spouse you miss him/her, and would like to spend some time making love tonight.

Mean what you say:

How many times have you had your feelings hurt by something your spouse said in a moment of anger, only to have him/her say later that they “didn’t really mean it, they were just blowing off steam” or, they were “just joking?” While sometimes that’s simply an excuse for ugly behavior, we can say things in a moment of passion or frustration that we don’t fully mean. Phrases like “Maybe we should just get a divorce” or “I hate you” are sometimes easy to say, but hard to take back. It’s much better to take a deep breath and silently count to 10 (or 100!), giving yourself time to really think about what you are saying, than it is to respond immediately and later come to regret the damage that’s been done.

Further, anything we do say, we should be prepared to back up. Telling your kid, “If you don’t clean your room today, you won’t be able to spend the night at your friend’s house tonight,” and then allowing them to go even though they never finished their room, only serves to teach them you don’t really “mean what you say.” The same principle applies with our spouses. To say, “I’m not going to continue talking with you if you’re going to keep yelling at me like this,” and then continuing the conversation none-the-less, likewise teaches them you truly don’t intend to enforce whatever consequences you said you would enforce.

Coming next: Part II in the series, Principals for Effective Communication and Conflict – “Fighting Fair”