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The great communicator. That's what the media dubbed former President Ronald Reagan. He had such a way with words, such an ability to speak gently and still make a strong point that even the news reporters who criticized him couldn't help but like him.

Are you a great communicator?

If you're not, you'd better become one. Because nothing has a greater impact on your marriage than your ability to communicate effectively with your spouse. If you don't communicate well, your marriage is not going to be everything God intended it to be.

Some of you husbands especially may be groaning in despair right now. "I guess it's all over then," you say. "I've never been any good at talking and I never will be."

That's not true! Even if communicating doesn't come naturally to you, you still have the capacity not just to do it, but to do it well. Every one of us has that capacity. All we have to do is follow the instructions God has given us in His Word.

Pass the Salt, Please
God set high standards for our communication. He makes that quite clear in Colossians 4:6: "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man."

Stop for a moment and read that verse again. How often does it tell us to season our speech with the salt of grace? Always. Not occasionally. Not just when your spouse deserves it. Not just on special occasions. Always!

That challenge is reaffirmed in Ephesians 4:29: "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."

No corrupt communication. Only that which is good to the use of edifying. Only the things that minister grace to the hearers.

Communication is so important that God named Jesus "Communication." Think about that. Jesus, the Living Word, is God's communication to mankind. And just as God communicates to us through Jesus, we should communicate Jesus to one another.

Everything you say to your spouse should in some way reveal the character of Jesus. All your communication should demonstrate the peace, the love, the joy, the gentleness, the kindness, the power, and the authority that's in Him.

That sounds great, doesn't it? But let's get real. It is one thing to preach the principles of communication; it is another thing to live by them. So let's look at some keys you can use to put these principles into practice on a day-to-day basis.

Offend Not!
The most important principle of effective communication is: Avoid Offending Your Listener. Real communication requires an atmosphere of trust and support. When you put your listener on the defensive, when you make him feel threatened, you destroy that atmosphere and he cannot accurately hear what you say. Defensiveness distorts the listener's interpretation of your words.

Secular researchers who've explored the subject of communication are in almost total agreement on this issue. The single greatest deterrent to effective communication is an atmosphere in which one party feels threatened and the need to defend themselves. James 3:2 tells us: "For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect (mature) man, and able also to bridle the whole body."

Now that word "bridle" very simply means to guide. And it's not only referring to your own physical body, it is also referring to the part of the body of Christ you contact with your communication. In other words, you can communicate direction to your fellow believers, speak your heart to them and bring guidance to their lives if you're able to speak without offending.
This point is especially important to remember when it comes to husbands and wives because we're so vulnerable to each other. We know each other's weaknesses, shortcomings, and sensitivities. The potential for threat there is much greater.

That's why it's doubly important that you "offend not in word" when it comes to talking with your spouse. If you can come to the place in your marriage where you speak without causing your spouse to be offended or feel threatened, you will have set the stage for true communication to take place. Here are three scriptural keys to help you along.

Be Swift to Hear
The first key to non-threatening communication is: Be quick to listen and slow to speak. James 1:9 says, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath..." However, most of the husbands and wives I've had to counsel over the years are exactly the opposite. They are slow to hear, swift to speak and extremely swift to get angry.

In the minds of many people, "listening" is so far down the list of priorities, they don't even think of it when the word communication is mentioned. All they think about is talking. But in reality, listening is the most important part.

Listening has a powerfully positive impact on your partner. More than anything else you can do or say, listening demonstrates that you care. Listening says, "Your feelings are important to me. I care about your viewpoint. I care enough to hear what you have to say." When your partner knows you care, the defenses come down and real communication can begin.

Say Something Positive
Once you've listened to your spouse, you'll be ready to use the second key to non-threatening communication: Make Your First Response Positive. Proverbs 16:24 tells us, "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones."
When you've listened to your spouse - when you've heard him or her out - make the first words you speak "pleasant words." They will establish an atmosphere that is sweet to your partner's soul (mind, will, and emotions).

"But you haven't heard how my wife talks to me," you may be saying to yourself. "It's hard to think of anything pleasant to say when I get through listening to her." Then just keep listening until you can.

Try to hear beyond what the emotional words are saying and discern the "why" behind them. Listen for the real motivating factors. If you have to, encourage your spouse to keep talking until you can respond positively to what's really on her heart.

Even when someone gives you a real tongue-lashing - make your first answer positive and soft. That's not only scriptural, it's just plain smart. "A soft answer turneth away wrath ..." (Prov. 15:1).

I've seen that principle work time and again. It's like popping a balloon. Soft words deflate anger and if you'll speak them every time an argument starts, most of those arguments won't last more than two seconds.

Please understand me now. I am not saying you should just let your spouse verbally walk all over you. I'm not saying that at all. It's possible to take a strong stand and refuse to let yourself be abused without being harsh or belligerent. State your position firmly. Just be sure to be gentle at the same time. When you do, you'll find that you've begun to create an atmosphere of trust and caring - an atmosphere in which your spouse feels free to share his or her heart.

Dare to Admit You're Wrong
All of us like to think we're right. We like to prove our point and win the argument. That's human nature. But if you're going to use the final key to non-threatening communication, you'll have to set that tendency aside and be willing to yield when you are wrong. James 3:17 says, "... the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated..." Or as the Amplified Bible says, "... (It is willing to) yield to reason... ."

One of the essential ingredients to producing the right kind of atmosphere for effective communication is a willingness to say, "I blew it." It builds trust in your marriage partner. When they realize that, rather than being unreasonable in your position, you're going to be "peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated," those walls of defensiveness will come tumbling down.

Give up the need to always be right. I've known far too many people who "won" their arguments and ended up losing something much more precious.

Study the Master
If you're going to "offend not," you must 1) be swift to hear, 2) say something positive, and 3) dare to admit you're wrong. Just those three keys will take you a long way toward good communication. But if you want to be a truly great communicator, you'll need to open the Word and study the Master.

Study the life and words of Jesus. With all due respect to former President Reagan, Jesus is the Great Communicator. He's our model. So take the time to learn from Him. Then make a commitment to put what you learn into action. Make communication a priority in your marriage and you'll fall in love all over again.

Source: Heirs Together by Mac Hammond
Excerpt permission granted by Living Word International

Author Biography

Mac Hammond
Web site: Mac Hammond
Mac Hammond is senior pastor of Living Word Christian Center, a large and growing church in Brooklyn Park (a suburb of Minneapolis), Minnesota. He is the host of the Winner’s Way broadcast and author of several internationally distributed books. Mac is broadly acclaimed for his ability to apply the principles of the Bible to practical situations and the challenges of daily living.

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