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Improving Communication: Tips You Already Know... And Need to Hear Again

You've heard it before.  

Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship.  

In fact, it's so integral that you really can't have a relationship without it.  I would venture to say that when the communication stops, the relationship stops.

Earlier this week a friend invited me and my husband to join her small group that meets on Thursday nights.  She was so excited about the new book they just started studying in the group.  When I asked her what the book was, she eagerly grabbed the copy of "Improving Communication in Your Marriage" (Rosberg) from her kitchen counter and handed it to me.

"You're gonna love this!" she said.  "It's a constant battle to prioritize communication in marriage.  This is stuff we all need to hear over and over again."

I felt relieved to know I wasn't the only one in need of improvement in this area.  My friend - who has been married for 21 years - new the importance of good communication.  And I'll be the first to admit it's always a focus for improvement in our house.  I mean, if I work in communications 40 hours a week, you'd think I would learn how to communicate effectively in the relationships that mean the most to me!  But, as my friend admitted, it's something we all need to learn over and over. 

Tips for improving communication skills  

I bet you've already heard these, but take them to heart again: 

  • It's not what you say - it's how you say it.  My mom said this numerous times as I was growing up.  And it rang true in every circumstance.  There's a nice way to say it, and a mean way to say it.  There's a blunt way to say it, and an eloquent way to say it.  King Solomon knew this was true more than 2,000 years ago when he wrote, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). 
  • Listen.  God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason; so that you would listen twice as much as you speak.  Be an active listener.  Make eye contact.  Engage with the speaker.  Ask questions to get a better understanding of what they are saying.  Listening to somebody is one of the most effective ways to show that you value them as a person.
  • Express expectations.  It's unfair to hold someone to a standard that you never told them about.  In business, bosses verbalize expectations for their employees so that employees can do their best to meet them.  Let others know what you expect, so that they, too, can do their best to meet expectations.
  • Say it.  You might be the kind of person who thinks and thinks about what you're going to say, but never says it.  Remember, if you don't somehow verbalize your thoughts, nobody will understand what you're thinking (unless they can read your mind).  Good intentions won't get you very far.  If you have something to say, just say it.  Find a nice way to say it, but say it.
  • Repeat as necessary.  Saying something once doesn't mean it's a done deal.  Repetition is the key to learning, and it's also the key to ensuring your audience knows exactly what you mean.  Do you have a big idea at work?  You probably want to mention it more than once.  Do your family members know how much you love them?  You should tell them every day.  Some things are worth repeating.

A good rule of thumb is to be the kind of communicator that you wish others would be.  Set a standard that others can follow.  Be kind but direct, gentle but firm, and season everything you say with humility and love.

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