Listen to your own heart! What is your motivation? What is your expectation? What is your disappointment? What are you feeling? Answering these questions will help you manage your emotions and therefore your words.
Listen to your mate’s heart! Don’t formulate an answer while your mate is speaking. Don’t give your attention to others or activities while your mate is speaking. Focus on your mate’s eyes and give full attention. Then tell your mate what you heard and ask for confirmation that what you heard is what was said.
Practice good timing! Be sensitive to your mate’s readiness to communicate. After a frustrating encounter with a teenager that left your mate doubting that relationship is not the time to initiate a discussion about an overdue credit card payment.
Engage fully regularly! Regular times of focused attention build conduits over which difficult communication can flow. Working from home, excessive personal activities, living parallel (watching TV in separate rooms, for example) will generate disengagement and a superficial relationship. A good example of fully regularly engaged is a weekly date of at least two hours without children.
Practice tender caring! Tender care provides an atmosphere for communication. Tender care tends to render ineffective a defensive spirit. Conversely, it engenders a sense of comfort and security in which a mate can express negative feelings or experiences and openly discuss them. Tender care comes in various forms such as: touching, gifting, empathy or humility (admission of a wrong and asking forgiveness).
Focus on personal responsibility! The use of I statements indicates responsibility (I said __________ and I know that hurt you.) Using I statements avoids blameshifting (we said _______ speaks for your mate and at least partially shifts blame.) Using I statements generates hope (Ok, he/she is ready to look realistically at this issue). The use of I statements provide a model of appropriate behavior for the mate (taking responsibility for one’s stuff).
Own your stuff to clear the air! Owning is more than apology. It is an expression of your recognition that your words or actions have been sin against God and your mate. This recognition leads to a humility that readily confesses the sin acknowledging the hurt that has been inflicted on the other. Seeking forgiveness flows from the confession resulting in cleansing of the sin restoring fellowship with God and a promise from the mate to no longer hold the offense against you resulting in a refreshment of the marriage relationship.
Nurture by intentional action! Nurturing is the practice of positive and constructive interpersonal activities in the marriage relationship. You nurture with affection. You nurture with a voice print that resonates care. You nurture with constructive instruction that is encouraging. Your nurture with expressions of love that your mate identifies as such (if you don’t know what these are, ask).
Appeal to one another! Both mates need to appeal to the other to engage these steps. Since we are human beings, we will all fail at times (we are all sinners and therefore tend to be selfish and self-centered). This means that each of us must extend grace to the other. At the very point at which we are hurt we must refrain from speaking hurtful words and rather speak words that will build up the other person (appeal to them to handle the issue/relationship in a positive manner) that we may give grace to them (See Ephesians 4:29)).
For the sake of space I have not inserted Scripture into this blog, with the exception of once. However, each of these ten steps grows out of a Biblical truth. They have a sound foundation. I would encourage you to read the coming series in this blog titled The Christian Protocols for Marriage Relationships. In these we will discuss the foundations.