We all respond favorably to a word aptly spoken. Scripture, in fact, says these words are like “apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25: 11)
Most of us are, in fact, desperate for a kind word and a soft and gentle response. We have enough abrupt encounters during the day that a word, aptly spoken, is healing balm to a fragile psyche.
Throughout the day we interact with many people, sometimes careful to choose our words wisely and other times insensitive to the needs of others. When we are thoughtless, the result can be very damaging.
“My husband shoots from the hip,” Marcia told me during a recent Marriage Intensive. “When I have annoyed him, he lets me know it, in not so nice terms.”
“How do you respond?” I asked, curious about whether she set healthy boundaries or reacted in an unhealthy way herself.
“I usually say something I regret,” she said sadly. “I don’t like the person I’m becoming.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I have always been one to be diplomatic, choosing my words carefully. I believe in holding my tongue and in being kind and compassionate. However, the last few years Vince and I have lost respect for each other. I’m ashamed of how I talk to him and certainly don’t like the way he talks to me.”
Vince and Marcia have slipped into some bad habits. Because “emotions are contagious,” Marcia speaks to Vince in a manner similar to how he has started talking to her. They will need to become much more mindful of these patterns before they have an even more detrimental impact.
Working with them as a couple, I taught them to become much more sensitive to how their words landed. I encouraged them to watch, look and listen to how their words impacted their mate and take responsibility for making positive changes.
Here are a few of the suggestions I gave to them, encouraging you to consider using them as well:
First, notice the impact of your words. You cannot change what you don’t see and accept. We all have “blind spots,” and it is up to us to become aware of our patterns and the impact of our words. Ask for feedback on how you speak to your mate and the impact of your words.
Second, take responsibility for helpful and hurtful words. Take responsibility for not only helpful words but hurtful words. No one makes you respond the way you do. You alone are responsible for choosing the words you do. Choose to lead the way in setting the emotional tone in your marriage.
Third, choose words that build up your mate. Words aptly spoken can have a powerful impact on the emotional tone in your marriage. You can have a profound impact on your mate’s self-esteem, not to mention the degree of love felt and expressed in your marriage.
Fourth, give honest feedback to your mate about their words. Again, we cannot change what we cannot see and own. We cannot read other’s minds and must give and receive honest feedback for change to occur. While it may be a bit threatening at first, practice giving honest feedback in a caring way. Create safety so that your mate can give honest feedback.
Finally, agree together to have your relationship filled with loving words. Make a commitment with your mate to fill your marriage with loving, kind words. Agree to use encouragement rather than criticism when asking for the changes you want. This is your marriage and you both are responsible for making it the marriage of your dreams.
Are you sharing words aptly spoken, or do you need to change how you and your mate speak to each other. I’d like to hear from you. Please read more about strategies for emotional growth and explore more about my Marriage Intensives at www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com. Send comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. David B. Hawkins is the Director of The Marriage Recovery Center near Seattle, Washington where he lives with his wife, Christie. If you would like to learn more about his work, please go to his website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com.
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