Communication is the highway upon which love travels. If there are potholes and barriers in our line of communication, our love doesn't reach its target and relationships suffer. There's an old myth that says if two people love each other, the successful marriage will just happen - it will be natural. But that's a lie!

There's nothing natural about good communication, good intimacy, or good relationships. On the contrary, good communication is learned. The great thing is, God's Word shares all the guidelines we need to open our highways of communication and keep them clutter-free.

What is Communication?

Before I introduce five power points for better communication, let me preface this article by quoting Norm Wright, who says, “Communication is the privilege of exchanging vulnerabilities…It's the process of sharing yourself verbally and non-verbally in such a way that the other person can both accept and understand what you're saying.”

Researchers tell us that the words we speak only make up about seven percent of the communication process. Real communication is seven percent words, thirty-eight percent tone of voice, and fifty-five percent non-verbal (facial expression, gesture, posture).

There are at least five major levels of communication. Level one is cliché conversation-“How's it going? Fine. See you later.” Level two is reporting facts-“Are you going to pick up the kids? Yes. I'll be home at five.” Level three is ideas and judgments-“What do you think about that? Let me get your opinion on this.”

Level four is where we go deeper; it's about feelings and emotions, and it's here that true growth begins to happen. Level five goes even beyond sharing emotions to wide open communication, mutual understanding, and total honesty. This is where we unzip our hearts, put them out on the table, and share everything. (Men often have a difficult time with these last two levels, because we're led to believe we shouldn't show our emotions.)

How much time are you spending with your spouse in levels four and five? As a couple, or even among close friends, intimacy does not occur unless levels four and five occur. These levels appear “dangerous” because they open us up to pain, risk, fear, and vulnerability. But they can be deeply fulfilling.

Been Burned Before?

If you've opened up in the past, only to be burned, you're probably tensing up and crossing your arms right now, saying, “I'm not going there...this didn't work for me before.” But let me suggest that the reason it may not have worked is because we haven't done it God's way. Let's open up the Bible to Ephesians 4 and look at five key ways we can open up the communication highway in a way that is safe, effective, and fulfilling.

P> STEP 1 - BE HONEST

“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up into all aspects unto Him, who is the head, even Christ…Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Ephesians 4:15,25)

The principle is-speak the truth in love. It may be easy to tell the truth and it may be easy to be loving, but it's often difficult to do both-to speak the truth in love. Let me give you a skill that will help you do this: make direct requests.

If you're a lady and you want to go for a drive or a bike ride with your husband, don't say, “It's a beautiful day. The sun's out. It's nice walking weather.” You didn't ask for anything (and we men are too dense to get your hint)! Here's how to make a direct request: “Honey, I would like to take a walk with you this afternoon. Would you be willing to do that with me between one and two?”

Before you men start yelling, “Preach it, Chip,” let me say that the same goes for you! If you're in the mood for love, don't tell you wife she smells good or looks nice in that dress. You haven't made a direct request. Instead, you may try something like this: “You look very attractive and I don't know what you have planned for this evening, but I would really enjoy getting together with you tonight…” You get the picture.