Having honest conversations require knowing how to have them. In the previous blog we covered "What Hinders Honest Conversations" and discovered some obvious practices that interrupt our relationship patterns. I am a believer that if we have the tools to be successful then we are without the excuse to apply them in our relationships. When both are onboard for the success then it makes it much more pliable to execute. Bad habits are not corrected overnight, but practicing these principles and having a heart to do better will help improve communication barriers.
How to have Honest Conversations?
Being willing to be vulnerable at any cost. The cost of vulnerability is high indeed because your heart is on the line. However, the cost of not being vulnerable is even higher particularly in marriage because it can create a barrier and lack of trust and honesty in the relationship, which is highly necessary to maintain the relationship.
Create the space. Creating a safe and relaxing space helps to have honest conversations. An environment that is conducive to being yourself is the best way to have good talks. Such as walking, over a nice lunch or dinner, alone at home, in the car on a long ride or even while taking a bath/shower together.
Ask short, open ended questions. Asking open ended questions opens the dialogue. Such as "where do you see our relationship going in the next 5 years?" or "How do I make you feel?" or "In what ways can I be a better communicator for you?" Avoid asking questions that will require more than a one word or short answer, such as: "Do you love me?" or "Do I make you happy?"
In therapy, a Pastor, or a trusted couple. Depending on the level of your communication, it may require a third party to be a support to avoid angry outbursts, abuse, or to simply stop the cycle of bad communication. Being in agreement is important on who you choose with your relationship. And if you have a spouse that doesn't agree, all is not lost, you go alone instead. This will at least help you to be able to navigate through this tough time in your marriage.
Speak from the heart. Listen from your heart. Speaking from the truth of your heart may be the easiest for some. But for others, it can be challenging if you feel that your voice is not heard. Remember this is the time to be heard, don't allow fear and intimidation to muffle you during such an important time. LISTEN FROM THE HEART is just as important as speaking. The Bible tells us to "be slow to speak and swift to hear." Listening from the heart requires discipline. One of my communication weaknesses was interrupting because I felt that if I didn't get to speak then he would shut it down, so I formed a habit to interrupt and that made him shut down anyway. Listening requires the mouth to be closed and the ears to intently listen. What I started doing was writing down points in order to not forget what to address and it helped to stay on point of the conversation without creating a new one. Another way to listen from your heart is to not defend yourself during the conversation. Allow them to get it all out before reacting or defending your stance. Listen to affects (how it makes them feel vs. the intent of delivery) of what the talk is about.
Practice being honest immediately. Don't blur the lines by beating around the bush and not being direct in your delivery. Conflict can be Godly when delivered in the spirit of love. Practice means that you confront it immediately without allowing it to fester or bring on bitterness.
Stay on target. When discussing a topic or issue, it is important to discuss what's at hand. Not staying on target will take the conversation to left field and will not support a resolution. In honest conversations, refrain from bringing up old topics that are long over or has been resolved. If it hasn't been resolved, it is not healthy to use the past issue to divert attention from the present issue. For instance, "you did not wash the dishes last night and that made me feel like you were expecting me to do it." "Well you didn't clean the room last month but I didn't say anything, how do you think that made me feel!" The problem with this conversation is that the first issue was not acknowledged and resolved before bringing up the old issue that was never addressed. Now a whole new discussion/argument has been created to justify the current issue. Let's fight fair!
Talk with them and not about them. Honest conversation requires an approach that is more about how it "makes me feel" than "you did this" or "you always/never do..." Removing "you" and replacing it with "I feel" helps for it to take the defenses down. The whole objective of the conversation is to resolve and not stir up strife. Proverbs 15:1 - A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Honest conversations are not designed for the blame game or a prideful display of "I'm right and you're wrong", however it is to create an atmosphere of intimacy.
Let go of expectations. Expectations can be the death of any relationship because they are what WE/I expect but they are not what was promised by our spouse. Some conversations may not go as expected, but keep trying. And let your spouse off the hook if they are not as brilliant of a conversationist as you are :-)
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