by J. Grant Swank, Jr.
What has happened to healthy conversation between husbands and wives, between parents and children? Fast-paced living has robbed us of God's gift of converse. Yet it can be retrieved with a little thought and effort, mainly based on self-giving rather than selfishness in communication.
Try the following for starters:
1. When listening to your spouse, truly listen with all you've got. Sometimes the temptation is to fake a listening stance, just posing- nodding without really hearing, smiling while the mind is wandering, laughing when hardly picking up the joke. In time, the other person figures out that the conversation is basically going one way. That is hurtful.
But when one truly listens, the vibes are there! The frequencies are strong. The one talking knows certainly that the other individual is all "into it."
2. Don't interrupt. If two people talk to one another, it should be with one another. That means that one should get to talk while the other listens; then vice versa. How frustrating it is to be interrupted, not just once, but constantly. When that occurs, tempers get hot and nerves get shredded. Have patience with the one speaking. Practice common courtesy and let that person finish the sentence, the paragraph. When a pause is forthcoming, then respond.
3. Stare into her eyes. That's right: Look right into her face and let her know that you are glued! It is the same with him-let him know that he is the center of your universe at that particular moment. Rivet your vision onto the other person, to discover that you are most welcome to enter deeply into that personality.
Can there be anything quite as frustrating as talking to a moving target? But unfortunately, that is what much of today's life is about-fast talk, fast jabs, fast nothing. Then we wonder why we rarely connect.
4. Allow for a breather. Some partners discover early that one talks more than the other. Perhaps one talks too much more than the other. When that occurs, it can lead to an individual's lack of attention, or artificial listening while thinking about other things. In other words, one individual may simply come to tolerate the other's constant haranguing.
5. Learn how to ask really thoughtful questions. This is especially true when speaking with a person who tends to be shy. Draw that person out into deeper conversational levels by asking about his activities of the day, her schedule for tomorrow, what is going on in his head, what preoccupies her pastimes. People really do crave for others to be interested in them. Question-asking is one fond way to probe about kindly into another's heart and head.
6. Take time out to sit and talk. After the evening meal can be a useful time slot at this point. With the children romping about, with their desserts gulped down, why can't mother and father take their desserts to the living room? In that milieu, just sit and talk and eat. Relax. Unwind. The dishes can wait. Ask about one another's day. Find out what the evening's schedule holds. Pick around at some insignificant items of the day. The same sit-and-chat pastime can sneak in happily upon you on a Saturday morning when neither spouse has to trot off to work. Or a Sunday evening before going to bed.
7. Try to stay away from negatives. In some marriages, one partner or the other tends to be negative-griping, picking, finding fault, raising problems into mega proportions when they are actually mini-sized, and so on.
When a negative spouse tends to overdo it, it is quite appropriate for the other partner to point this conversational slant out for reframing. Suggest that for this particular evening, nothing negative, no really heavy problem, is going to be brought up.
Try this over and over so that one can begin to change his or her negative habit. In time, the downer partner actually can revamp conversation by revamping one's outlook on life.
8. Toss a lot of life situations into prayer baskets. One believer can remind the other that it is time to quit fretting and start trusting God with the practical nettles of life. This is not necessarily dodging responsibilities; it is really meaning business when it comes to real-life faith.
"I think we should give that one over to God," can be the simple suggestion. The light bulb goes on in the other's head. "Good idea," is usually the correct response.
It is not that one spouse is more spiritual than the other; it is just that the grind of life can cause us to forget that God is really on our side. We need to take situations to Him more frequently and let worry go fly.