Jim walked in the door after a long day at work and Mary met him in the foyer. Without even a kiss or “how was your day,” she began to unload on him. “If I’ve asked you once, I’ve asked you a hundred times to pick up after yourself.” She then rattled off a long list of offenses beginning at the bedroom where he left his clothes scattered around, to the bathroom where his toiletries were strewn about. She continued with a detailed account of his offenses in the basement, and ended with the statement, “I want you to pick up after yourself.”
Feeling overwhelmed by criticism, Jim walked back out the door and took off in his car.
Today I want to talk to you about how to communicate to your spouse when you need change to take place. The method in which you deliver what you have to say is so important. Although body language, tone, and timing are crucial, delivery is also an important component. If you want your spouse to change a behavior, how you deliver it is part of the process.
Let’s look at four components:
- Lead with positive language.
Leading with positive language rather than negative facts is the fastest way to package change. Leading with negative facts or accusations, even though they may be true, rarely produces positive results. Your spouse will be more apt to resist than to relent. Think about how you would be prone to respond if someone began a conversation with you by starting off with negative facts and accusations. Research shows that negativity produces a rebellious response in every age and stage of life. State what you want your spouse to do in a positive and straightforward way and you are far more likely to get better results.
- Focus on the desired outcome rather than the failed behavior.
Instead of the barrage of negative accusations, a better approach would have been for Mary to simply mention sometime throughout the evening (perhaps after Jim had been fed and had a chance to relax a bit), “Honey, it would mean a lot to me if you would pick up after yourself more. And if you have a little time, I have some specific areas right now that you could help me with.” Then let it go. This is a way that you can confront without badgering or accusing. This is a simple and straightforward approach that honors God and your spouse.
- Be kind. Be nice.
I cannot emphasize this enough. I know you feel frustrated and overwhelmed at having to repeat yourself over and over. Welcome to life! Welcome to marriage! Your frustration and their lack of compliance to your wishes does not give you a license to be mean.
- Be humble.
Start out with the phrase, “It would mean a lot to me if you would….” fix dinner more often, pick up after yourself more, make sexual intimacy more of a priority, not confront me when I walk in the door, (you fill in the blank). This statement is a position of humility. I want to challenge you to add one more thing to your statement. “Honey it would mean a lot to me if you would ________, but if you don’t, I still love you.” This statement is the humblest way to communicate the change that you need.
So, there you have it! These four components communicate love and respect. They motivate and encourage. They do not leverage or demand. This approach moves mountains.
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