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Entries in Communication (6)

Tuesday
Jan292019

S-E-T Your Marriage Up for Success!

Deb DeArmond loves to help people build sound, godly relationships. In this Marriage UPGRADE she challenges married people to boost their relationship with three important steps.

"Marriage may be easy one day, tough the next," Deb says, "But you can set yourself up to live happily ever after!"

I (Dawn) have experienced this in my nearly 45 years of marriage. Every relationship has its ups and downs, but we don't have to leave our relationships to chance. We can make choices for growth and stability.

Deb continues . . .

I’ve jokingly said I could never divorce my hubby, even on really rough days. But I could explain his sudden disappearance.

Face it, we all have our moments when it’s an uphill journey. So, let’s look at some tips to smooth out the path.

February is 2019 National Marriage Month—a good time to be sure you are S-E-T up to create, enhance or restore the health your marriage deserves.

After 43 years of marriage to my high school sweetheart—he’s still my favorite human—we continue to discover ways to be better together.

Take some time this month to S-E-T yourselves up with a few tools, tips, and tactics to make that easier each day.

S – Speak Up!

I’m grateful for the 400+ married couples who shared their stories with me during my research on the marriage books I’ve written. Surveys, focus groups, and interviews revealed info that stuns me.

The hardest to understand is the hurt, anger, or disappointment spouses experienced, but never shared with one another. Some major, some less so, but consistently damaging. They disclosed info to me they’ve never shared with one another!

When I ask, “Why didn’t you speak up?” the answers are universal:

  • It won’t make any difference.
  • He (she) should have already noticed.
  • I don’t want to hurt or anger my spouse.

Our spouses know us well, but they aren’t mind-readers.

One friend shared he was stunned when his wife filed for divorce. She handed him an exhaustive list of offenses with dates and times going back 18 years. The problem was, it was the first time he’d known about any of it.

So, find your voice and speak up. 

E – Engage Your Spouse

One way to keep communication healthy is to engage your spouse often in conversation. Draw out any issues that he/she may not have disclosed and share your own, too. The reasons are varied, but the bullets under "S" are the top three.

Ask open-ended questions designed to create understanding:

  • “The new job has been overwhelming. I need your help. How would you feel about temporarily taking on more responsibility at home?”
  • “How are you doing with the demand of the new promotion? How can I help?”
  • “You seemed upset I cancelled our plans and we’ve not discussed it. How do you feel about it?”

T – Truth Must Partner with Love

Ephesians 4:15 exhorts us:But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ” (CSB).

Truth spoken without love doesn’t land well and seldom creates the intended outcome.

Truth expressed in anger, frustration, or hurt is still truth—but comes across as an attack and rarely changes hearts or minds. It often creates or escalates isolation.

Truth is most effective when we’ve managed our negative feelings and communicated with love.

Connect to create shared understanding is the goal.

It may require we delay the conversation, but we don’t defer it indefinitely. Once communicated, we can find our way to a Godly solution together.

Don’t delay! S-E-T yourself up for success today!

Which of the "S-E-T yourself up" tips could help your marriage most right now? Why? What would be different if you implemented these steps? How might your choices contribute to positive change in your marriage?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her first bookRelated by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Book #2, I Choose You Today, helps couples strengthen their marriages. Deb's newest book on marital conflict, Don't Go to Bed Angry, Stay Up and Fight! was co-authored by her husband, Ron. They live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.

Graphic 1 adapted, courtesy of D. Williams at Pixabay. Graphic 2 adapted, courtesty of Yolanda Sun at Unsplash.

Wednesday
Jul252018

Communicate Well with that 'Irregular' Person

Kathy Collard Miller speaks well to relationships, and especially how we get along. In this Communication UPGRADE, she offers biblical insight into communication skills we all need.

“Someone has said, ‘An irregular person is anyone we don’t get along with,’” Kathy says. “But we should remember someone may be calling us their irregular person! And maybe it’s because our communication skills could improve.”

That is so true! I (Dawn) discovered that when the Lord opened my eyes about someone I thought was too direct and a bit critical in our conversations. As it turned out, I was hyper-sensitive and reactive—something I needed to change.

Kathy continues . . .

It’s easy to think negatively about someone when there is a lack of harmony between us.

“After all, if she weren’t such an irregular kind of person, she wouldn’t misunderstand me. All my other friends understand me. It must be her."

I’ve been studying the biblical book of Proverbs and communication is an important topic in that practical book. Let’s see what insights God offers us for better communication. Maybe we are more irregular than we think.

There are always skills we can learn.

1. Talk less than you think you should even if you feel defensive.

Proverbs 10:19 urges us, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (ESV).

How true, how true. We all are able to hold our tongue and, at that point, things are going well.

But then we reach our limit and we try to defend ourselves with many words.

Most of the time, many words get us in big trouble.

The more we say, the less we are heard and understood. One temptation is adding points that aren’t relevant to the current topic.

“Oh, and by the way, I’ve been meaning to tell you also about how a month ago you….”

Our many words have now become more complicated and the real issue is harder to deal with.

Less is more in relationships, and especially with someone we aren’t connecting with well. Let’s ask God to help us speak less than more.

2. Keep your voice soft.

Of course such advice as “keep your voice soft” seems impossible, but it really is possible to learn. You’ll be motivated even more when you begin to see the advantages it brings.

Proverbs 15:1 tells us, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

At the time of dealing with someone who seems against us, we feel powerless. They won’t listen nor heed what we’re saying. Everything within us wants to be heard and by golly, we’ll raise our voice to make it happen.

DON'T.

It’ll be the hardest thing ever, but don’t. Instead, use the “broken record technique.” Just say the main point over again in a normal voice.

For instance, “I hear you think I said … but I really said ….” When the person raises her voice and is defensive, again repeat softly, “I hear you think I said … but I really said…” Repeat again as needed—softly!

This is extremely hard but it is possible in God’s power. As a result, you’ll see anger is less likely to be stirred up and there’s a better possibility of a positive conversation.

3. In the end, God must be the one we depend upon to protect us.

After all we’ve done, our efforts may not gain us what we want. Our “irregular” person may respond more aggressively, and we wonder what they are thinking of us. Is it even worse than before?

Our only peace must come from the truth of Proverbs 30:5: “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

Our words haven’t gained us what we wanted, but God’s Word never goes wrong. The Lord knows the truth about us and our intentions, and He will protect us according to His loving will for us.

We can trust Him.

What can I do to help communicate with the person who seems irregular to me? When my efforts don’t turn out the way I’d prefer, how can I find God as my refuge?

Kathy Collard Miller is the author of over 50 books, her most recent is No More Anger: Hope for an Out-of-Control Mom (Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.). She loves to speak at evenats and has spoken in more than 30 US states and eight foreign countries. Learn more about Kathy at www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pasja1000 at Pixabay.

Thursday
Aug102017

How Well Do YOU Listen?

Becky Harling is one of the most practical women I know, often tackling topics women need to hear like "performance" and dealing with our emotional scripts. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she asks us to honestly evaluate our listening skills.  

 

"I remember well when I asked my teenage daughter, 'Honey, do you think I listen well?' Honestly," Becky says, "I was expecting rave reviews, but what I received was something entirely different"

I (Dawn) think Becky was so brave to ask her teenager for input. But what I admire most is her desire to act on that input!

Becky continues . . .

Mental note to self: Don’t ask your kids what they think unless you’re prepared for the answer!

There was a long pause, and then Bethany said,

“Well… sometimes you listen well… but, you seem distracted a lot, you interrupt me a lot and you dive in with your own story and you give me way too much advice!

"Mom, I just want to feel heard!”

Wow!

That night in bed, I had a lot to consider and I remember wrestling in prayer.

But finally, after several sleepless hours, I prayed,

“Lord, I want my daughter to feel heard and loved. Help me to change. Show me how to work on my listening skills so that those I loved feel heard.”

Author David Augsburger wrote, “Being heard is so close to being loved that they are almost indistinguishable.”

God created us for relationship with Him and with others. And that means we need to value our relationships by listening attentively.

Relational wisdom from Proverbs teaches us, “Let the wise listen and add to their learning” (Proverbs 1:5).

Jesus Himself warned, “Consider carefully how you listen’” (Luke8:18).

Most of us are busy and stressed out, so how do we consider carefully how we listen and take steps to improve our listening skills?

It’s not as hard as you might think. It will take practice, but there are a few steps you can take right away.

Today. 

If you take these simple steps you’ll improve your listening skills immediately and those who are dear to you will feel more loved right away!

Simple Steps:

1. Silence Your Inner Fixer.

Have you noticed how tempting it is to try to fix other people’s problems? I’ll give you a secret. People don’t want you to fix their problems. They want you to listen. They want to feel heard and validated that their situation is difficult and challenging.

So next time, you’re tempted, ask a question instead. Which brings me to my second simple step.

2. Learn how to ask questions.

Any great conversationalist knows how to ask great questions. Jesus Himself was the Master question asker“Who do you say I Am?” “What do you want me to do for you?”—and it’s a pretty easy skill to learn.

Before you meet a friend for coffee, think of three questions you’ll ask so that they’re already in your head. Do the same whenever you attend a meeting where you’ll meet someone new.

Think through a few great questions and even write them on an index card. Then look at the card right before you go into your meeting so the questions will be fresh in your mind. Watch and wait for the opportunity to ask a question.

Hey, if you need help in the question-asking department, I’ve got good news for you! I’ve got a great free gift called, How to Get the Conversation Started up on my website. It’s loaded with great questions you can use in any situation!

3. Let Go of Distractions.

Don’t buy into the myth of multi-tasking. It will hurt your relationships.

When you’re with someone, discipline yourself to be fully present to the conversation.

Turn off or silence your cell phone. Shut down your computer and turn off the T.V. and simply listen to the other person. Seek to understand their heart and what’s behind the words they are speaking. 

The one way it’s valuable to multi-task is to pray for wisdom as the other person is talking. Pray that the Holy Spirit will set a guard over your mouth and help you to speak only what’s helpful.

4. Ask.

Finally, ASK.

Dare to ask at least two people you love, “How well do you think I listen?”

However they reply, don’t push back. Simply receive and then take it to the Lord and ask Him to change you!

Which of these simple steps might UPGRADE your listening skills today? Choose one, and "practice" on your family and friends. Who knows ... the Lord might open new doors to better relationships.

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Becky is married to Steve Harling and has four adult kids and five grandkids. Visit her website and blog!

Graphic adapted, courtesty of StockSnap at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Feb142017

Valentine Valor

A strong marriage requires good communication, and in this Valentine's Day UPGRADE, Deb DeArmond encourages marriage partners to be brave and cultivate better heart communication.

“Marriage is not for the faint of heart," Deb says. "It’s the HEART-est work you’ll ever do.”

The "heart-est" work — I (Dawn) love that! Hard work we accomplish on behalf of loving marriages is well worth the effort!

Deb continues . . .

I was recently asked by a young friend, “What’s your secret to a happy marriage?”

My response took her by surprise.

“We discovered it’s better to find the courage to fight than the strength to run.”

Let me clarify. We don’t believe stepping into the ring to take our shots at one other is the best way to come to agreement. That’s what happens when we forget Christian marriages have a very real enemy.

But it’s not your spouse.

So, we do fight, the enemy, together, for the life of our marriage—and it’s always been worth the effort.   

As my husband and I have ministered to marrieds, a familiar pattern often appears: “We don’t fight. We try to avoid conflict. It’s not healthy.”

They go along to get along, remaining silent, as they disconnect from one another, bit by bit, till there’s very little left of the love they proclaimed at the altar.

Silence can speak volumes.

Just because it’s quiet, does not mean there’s peace in the house.

And it’s not the way Jesus dealt with relationships that He valued.

My favorite example:

Jesus asked Peter three times after His resurrection - “Peter, do you love me? Then feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). Jesus confronted Peter because He loved him, and the relationship was important to Him.

He did it to restore the connection. He did it to restore Peter.

The goal of confrontation is to connect. And to make that happen, the language of confrontation must be love.

Healthy confrontation requires valor, otherwise known as courage, bravery, or audacious boldness.

What’s that look like?

Here are three Valentine’s Day opportunities to bravely step into a healthier, more intimate marriage.

1. Speak up.

Bravely say what needs to be said—speaking the truth in love. No matter how long you’ve been married, your spouse can’t read your mind.

When couples retreat into silence, they no longer have enough hope or ambition to fight. Silence says, “I give up.”

One gentleman told us he and his wife never experienced any conflict until 20 years into the marriage when she announced she’d “had enough and wanted a divorce.” He was stunned when she presented him with a list of grievances, carefully compiled, but never shared.

2. Confront courageously.

Confront the issue, not the person. Be aware of your tone, timing, and the words you choose.

“I’d like to talk about what happened last night at your folks. I was embarrassed when you . . . .” Describe your issue with the behavior rather than attack the person.

And return the favor: are you confrontable? Are you open to hear from your spouse?

3. Boldly examine YOUR heart first.

It’s easy to see the flaws in our partner; tougher to see the cracks in our own facade.

  • Do you have to have the final word?
  • Are you quick to point out your spouse’s shortcomings, but don’t see your own?
  • Do you nurse a grudge like a baby at the breast?

If you are willing to acknowledge your own flaws, God will reveal them to you. Ask Him to help you grow in those areas.

Speaking up is a risk. But the goal of genuine, authentic connection is worth chasing, even when it might create some tense or painful moments.

Are you brave enough to take that step?

Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. Author and speaker, her newest book is entitled Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! Deb’s books help readers whether newlywed, or long-time married create the life God meant marriage and family to be. For more information about Deb, visit her website, Family Matters.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Tuesday
May262015

Use Your Words

In her books, Deb DeArmond explores relationships—what strengthens them and what breaks them down. In this Attitude/Relationship UPGRADE, she asks us to consider the power of what we say and how we say it.

“If you’re upset or need something, don’t whine or complain,” Deb says. “Use your words.”

Words. Like most writers, I (Dawn) love them. And I agree with Deb's assessment about their power in relationships.

Deb continues . . .

I raised three sons in a busy household. A kindergartner, a toddler and a newborn in one thousand square feet. It could be the best gig ever on good days and unbelievably defeating on bad ones. Missed naps could create crabby kids. Meltdowns were rare, but an empty peanut butter jar or a lost toy could push even the best behaved into tantrum territory.

Little has changed. Kids are the same today.

“Use your words,” is a phrase I hear directed at young ones with a cranky complaint delivered via non-verbal communication. Pouting, sulking, whining and crying seem to be among the favorite methods to express dissatisfaction with life in the moment.

I’m embarrassed to admit I avoid young families in the grocery store checkout line. It’s that “impulse” aisle—those candy and chewing gum infused shelves right at eye level for kids. It’s the perfect storm; a melee in the making.

I recently watched a sweet mom at church remind her three year old to “use your words if you want me to listen to you.” It made me wonder, does God ever feel that way about me?

Perhaps like you, I have my moments. Times I’ve needed a nap, or a meal or maybe a chill pill—times when my communication devolves to the toddler-toned whine or the full-blown tantrum. “I’m tired” or “I was upset,” are the excuses that accompany the inevitable apology.

God’s not impressed, but He’s faithful to forgive—and He’s equipped us to do better.

Consider:

1. Words are a gift.

The Lord’s given us the ability to express our fears, our hurts, our hopes, and concerns. Among His most valuable gifts (especially when feelings run high) is our voice. Our words.

Words are certainly an upgrade over the grunt or groan of the caveman. And James certainly agrees:

“A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it” (James 3:5, MSG).

2. Words are powerful.   

God spoke the worlds into existence. Our confession that Jesus is Lord transforms us into new creatures in Christ and changes our destiny forever.

3. Words matter.

Jesus is the living Word. His words in our mouths are the mightiest communication we can create. His words change circumstances.

When life is discouraging, disappointing or downright devastating, His words give us hope: "For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13, NLT).

When financial issues pile on and the numbers don’t add up, declare His words, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NIV).

I’ve always delighted in words. I love finding the right ones, the perfect turn of phrase to express delight or dismay. To praise or petition.

Turns out not only does our Abba Father listen to us, He provides us the perfect words.

His words.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105, NLT).

Powerful. Effective. Always successful.

“It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (Isaiah 55:11, NLT).

Now, that’s quite a promise!

When have you found that declaring God’s words made a difference in your home or other relationships?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between moms and the girls who marry their sons, and her new book, I Choose You Today, helps couples strengthen their marriages. Deb and her husband, Ron, live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.