Loving Respect

I was recently reading a Fox News Editorial online about spouses disrespecting one another.  Some of the comments just flabbergasted me!!

Some folks tore down marriage in general, saying the institution is messed up and needs to be abolished. Others said they do things differently in their relationships, and are “honest” with one another, even to the point of disrespect. Others spoke of marriage being a contract of mutual ego gratification. Yet another said if a spouse will say, “Yes, Dear,” to everything, all will be well.

The comments reflected a staggering ignorance regarding what a loving Biblical marriage is really like. There were only a refreshing few who started to scratch the surface and address these things.

Finally, I just couldn’t take it any more. I will admit, I likely made my mistake by being there at all, but I was there. Since I’ve learned my life’s purpose is to speak the truth in love whenever and wherever I see untruths perpetuated, I spoke up. I said the following in a couple of different comments, which I’ve combined to make the point of this post:

Part of the problem is our culture is so caught up the the “Love is a Feeling” trap. Well, folks, if love was really a feeling, I wouldn’t be sitting here still married after 35 1/2 years! We would have divorced long ago!

Love is NOT a feeling. Love is a daily decision to ACT, to DO loving things, to SAY loving things and BE a loving person to the one to whom you have committed yourself.

Gratifying your own ego has no place in love. Self-sacrifice does. Being a doormat has no place in love. An equally-yoked partnership, where each brings what they can uniquely offer in gifts and talents, does. Independence has no place in love. Love is interdependent, causing each to become as much a part of the other as one side of a coin is to another.

Why would I treat him with disrespect if I expect him to treat me with respect? And why would he treat me with disrespect if he expects me to treat him with respect? Why would we WANT to treat with disrespect the person we vowed in front of all our families and friends to love, honor and respect??? It makes no sense!!!

The emotions behind our words are expressed. The things that displease or hurt us are voiced, as well as why these things displease or hurt us.

Disrespect comes from the “Love is a Feeling” crowd. It’s easy to disrespect someone when you don’t “feel” loving toward them. But if you are committed to the daily decisions of acting out love, respecting your spouse gets a whole lot simpler. it just becomes part of the package at the point, gang. I won’t tell you it’s easy. But after 35 1/2 years, it’s worth it.

Our Family Portrait, 2008

Our Family Portrait, 2008

All I can add is some recommendations as to how to get your marriage toward that goal. It’s how we did it. Love and Respect by Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs is a book that helped our marriage out during a tough spot. We learned men and women have different needs in marriage, that neither is more valid than the other and both need to be met. The DNA Of Relationships by Gary Smalley was another book that helped us through some very tough places. It showed us what each of our needs and hot buttons are, how we can avoid our spouse’s hot buttons and meet their needs when we interact with one another.

Books like His Needs, Her Needs by William F. Harley, Jr., The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology, both by Gary Chapman were great resources for helping us in communicating. Through them, we learned we each communicate our needs to be loved and say we’re sorry after we’ve messed up differently, and we have to communicate in ways so our spouse understands the way they hear best, instead of our own.

Personality Plus by Florence Littauer  (or a similar book, Positive Personality Profiles by Dr. Robert Rohm) was invaluable to figure out how each one of us was wired at heart, and how to communicate to our spouse. And believe it or not, Dale Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friends And Influence People helped us both to learn people skills we lacked, to be able to practice on each other. Leadership And Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace, both by The Arbinger Institute, taught us volumes on communication and conflict resolution.

All of these resources are available from LIFE Leadership, as is The Marriage Pack of CD’s from LIFE Leadership, another great help for learning communication and how to have a happy marriage.

LIFE Leadership Logo

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate!

Have you ever had a complete failure to communicate with someone? What did you do about it? How did you solve your communication problems?

A few years ago, my husband and I were attending a party at a location in a nearby town. We’d never been to the place. We were told it was easy to find, just across from the WalMart. In the rush of getting ready, neither of us thought to look up the location online, so we could find an exact address to program into our GPS.

Instead, we sat in our driveway and asked my iPhone adviser Siri where Youth for Christ was. Siri replied she did not deal with ecclesiastical matters. I rephrased the question. Siri responded she dealt with things silicon, not spiritual! Frustrated, but realizing the humor of the situation, I tried yet again. Siri then asked me if I wanted her to find me a local pastor or another minister with whom to discuss my questions!

It was only then my laughing husband remembered about the WalMart. So I asked Siri where it was. There are 3 nearer to us than that one, and Siri tried to give me the closest. Finally, I thought to add the name of the town to the WalMart and told Siri to give me that one. Siri finally figured out what I wanted!! Our GPS armed with the information, laughing all the way, we finally left the party, somewhat later than we’d planned!

What Siri and I had that day was a failure to communicate. I believed I was clearly stating where I wanted to go. However, Siri’s global database had never heard of where I wanted to go, or her programming only chose certain words (like “Christ”) from what I said to interpret what I wanted. The resulting disconnect both amused and frustrated us. It amused us because her answers were very funny! It frustrated us because it left us clueless about where we were supposed to be going. It was only when we revised our end of the conversation (twice!) that we got the answers we needed.

Failures to communicate happen daily within human relationships in friends and family, and even among strangers. We may think we understand what we are saying, and think they do, but if they aren’t really understanding us, a failure to communicate is inevitable. As LIFE leader Chris Mattis says,

It doesn’t matter what you say. It doesn’t matter what you meant to say. It only matters what they heard.

Failures to communicate can damage relationships, destroy marriages and families and even cause wars in extreme cases. There are some historians who say the War of 1812 was to at least some extent a failure between Great Britain and the United States to communicate.

So how do we deal with this issue? How do we work past these challenges and speak to people so they hear us? 

In a college public speaking class, I learned 4 basic rules by which we were to mold all our speeches. I’ve since heard many public speakers use them, and I have personally found them helpful in my daily living when I use them. They are

Be bright. Be brief. Know your audience. Be gone!

Be Bright. One of the first keys in communication starts with having something to say.  The Bible talks in many places about people who speak endlessly with nothing to contribute, and we’ve all experienced unfortunate episodes with such special individuals personally. LIFE leader Terry Franks defines such one-sided conversations as

the slings and arrows of outlandish gerbilling! Light travels faster than sound, which is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak!

I am always reminding myself not to talk to hear myself speak or because I feel I need to add my voice to a conversation. I want to contribute productively to it. As my father used to say,

Silence is not an indicator of intelligence or its lack. Sometimes, speaking is.

Be Brief. Okay, I will confess this is the one with which I struggle the most. (I know, not a shock!) A mentor of mine is often reminding me to say the most with the least amount of words, and none if at all possible. As St. Francis of Assisi is attributed to saying,

Preach Christ, and if necessary use words.

It was in the area of brevity where Siri and I failed to communicate. I said, “Youth for Christ,” meaning the organization its regional location. Siri heard, “Christ,” and understood I wanted to discuss religious matters, something a computer program isn’t designed to do. I gave the briefest inquiry appropriate. Siri didn’t have the information I wanted.

Know Your Audience. Are they a close family member? A friend? A complete stranger? Is your language their first language, or is there a bigger communication gap than what we’re dealing with here? Are you unintentionally about to push buttons with ill-chosen words?

My conversation with Siri was lacking in this regard, too. I didn’t know, until we hit on the WalMart in the correct town, how to phrase my inquiries in a way so Siri would understand. Siri didn’t understand the nature of my original request, either. Siri didn’t hear or wasn’t programmed to hear the entirety of what I’d said. Siri only caught bits and pieces. And it was in her bits and their lack that our failure to communicate started, and escalated.

When I consider my audience, I have to be aware of certain things. Are they children? I tone down my vocabulary closer to their level and use simpler words and concepts, explaining myself more. Are they professional people? Jargon might be appropriate, or maybe not, depending on the group and situation. I will admit a definite distaste for buzz words!

Two books available from LIFE have truly been helpful to me in understanding people. The first is the classic Personality Plus by Florence Littauer. It speaks of peoples’ different social interaction styles, and how to know which styles you, your friends and family have. Each different style blend requires a different way of speaking to them so they will hear what you are saying. For example, I would not give the same information to my daughter in the same way as I did to my husband if I wanted similar reactions from them, because I know their style blends are polar opposites.

The second book is another classic, Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People.  Before you think, “Oh, I have lots of friends!” please let me remind you we’re talking about successful communication with everyone. This book goes into volumes more than I can begin to get into in a blog post, and I highly recommend it.

Be Gone. How many times have we yearned to hang up on (or walk away from) a conversation with someone who just refuses to let go? The introductory pleasantries have been dealt with, the subject matter discussed and now it’s time to end the chat, but the other party just won’t let you get on with your day! Unfortunately, this is another sin to which I must lay claim to being guilty. It has taken the loving insistence of my friends to let me know of this bad habit, and to work to curtail it. I have to remember the time of the people with whom I am speaking is just as valuable as mine, and if I want them to value my time highly, I have to do the same for them.

So, rather than going on with a long-winded close, I will Be Gone for now to let you, dear readers, contribute to the conversation. I’d really like to know your thoughts and stories on communication, or its lack. The floor is yours!

Listening Or Talking?

Who talks to you the most? Who has the most influence over you? To whose words do you listen the most?

If you think about my questions, you might come up with answers such as your spouse (or domestic partner), best friend, sibling, parent or child. But I want to invite you to look into it a little deeper.

Think a little harder. Whose voice do you hear most often? If you are like most of us and think about it for a bit, you will realize quickly the voice you hear is none other than your own.

Our inner voices are our constant companions. We think with them. We use them as our inner creative muses. We consider decisions, process information, work through feelings, remind ourselves of things and think about what to say to others.

Our inner voices can be quite busy at times. In times of stress, our thought lives can run rampant with “could have, should have, would have” scenarios. When we are processing emotional events, good or bad, they are equally busy. And when it’s quiet, if we have a tendency toward it, our thoughts will get busy when we are not.

The most important thing to pay attention to about our thought lives is what our thoughts are saying to us. Are they contributing to situations in life, or detracting from them? Are they building others we are thinking about up, or tearing them down? Are they viewing the world through a positive lens or a negative one?

Once we understand what the tendency of our thoughts usually is, we can take steps toward controlling them. In other words, instead of just listening to ourselves, we can take positive and productive steps toward talking to ourselves!

What do I mean by talking to ourselves? The first step in talking to ourselves is one I’ve already outlined, being aware of what the general tendency of your thoughts. If your thoughts tend toward the negative, be aware of it. Understand that of yourself, and realize you will need to work toward a healthier thought life. Most of us need to do it to some extent or another, and some need it more than others.

The next step in talking to ourselves is called Pattern Interruption. When you notice your thoughts tending toward the negative even slightly, say “STOP!” to yourself. Throw up a mental stop sign, or a hazard warning or whatever works for you. Do it as quickly as you notice it.

The next step in talking to ourselves is called Re-framing. Take the situation or emotion that’s bothering you, and reword it into positive terms. See the good side of it, however small. If someone was cruel to you, realize your mission in life might not include that person, and know you are doing all you able to be polite and pleasant, despite their bad behavior. If it is raining, and you wanted to have a picnic, think about how good the rain will be for the plants, and how you can have your picnic indoors. You get the idea!

The final step in talking to ourselves is to do just that — Talk to Yourself! Look at what you can do, instead of what you can’t and change your focus to that. Tell yourself things only look impossible until someone does them. Instead of listening to your inner critic, tell your inner critic to be silent!

Most of us have an inner critic resulting from experiences from somewhere in childhood and as we grew up. Maybe a sibling or parent told you that you couldn’t do something. Maybe you failed at something you tried and the kids at school laughed at you. Maybe you weren’t attractive enough, or smart enough, good enough or something enough to get the attention of a special someone. The more negative experiences we had as children and young adults, the louder our outer critics, the louder our inner critic will likely be for us. 

Quite frankly, for many of us, if someone outside of us talked to us the way we allowed our inner critics talked to us, we’d sever all ties with them! Think of your relationship between yourself and your thought life the same way as you would between yourself and a friend. Would you allow your friend to talk to you that way? If not, then why are you allowing yourself to do it?

Using these techniques of being aware of our thoughts, Pattern Interruption, Re-framing and Talking to Ourselves are vital steps in silencing our inner critics. Once you start to master these steps, you will find you have a healthier thought life. And a healthier thought life leads to healthier relationships, and more happiness in your life overall.