Use this format to improve communication in your marriage. Decide on an agenda in advance or at the beginning of each meeting. Don't try to tackle more than one or two problems in one session. Decide how long you will spend on problem solving. An hour or less works better than longer amounts of time. Agree also that you can stop the discussion if either person wants to do so. The person who wants to stop the discussion will set a time within the week for resuming the discussion.
Guidelines When Speaking
1. Be brief. A two sentence rule is effective in minimizing hostility and in keeping the discussion focused.
2. Be specific. Instead of complaining, "You're so messy", say, "I would like you to hang up your coat when you come in and I'd like you to put your dirty clothes in the hamper.
3. Omit insults, and accusations. Assume a "no-fault" attitude. Think instead, "We have a problem, what can we do about it."
4. Don't use labels. Calling someone "sloppy" or "lazy" is a generalization and it will anger your partner.
5. Avoid absolutes. Using words such as "never" or "always" are usually inaccurate and they also increase the hostility.
6. State things positively. Say, "I'd like you to take out the trash" rather than "You never help around here."
7. Say what you think and feel not what you think the other person thinks or feels. Mind reading doesn’t work.
Guidelines When Listening:
1. Listen to your partner and give signals, such as nodding your head or saying un-huh, to let him or her know you are listening.
2. Try to understand the main point in what your partner is saying and his or her feelings behind this.
3. Summarize aloud what you think your partner means and ask if you have understood him or her correctly. If your partner says you haven't understood, ask for further explanation. Repeat until you have understood your partner’s viewpoint.
4. Say you're sorry if you have clearly injured your mate. This doesn't mean you accept the blame. You can be sorry you have hurt him or her even though it was unintentional. If you realize you were at fault, admit it and ask for forgiveness. (A post on Forgiveness is coming in a few weeks.)
For Both Partners:
1. Find points of agreement and focus on these. Comment also on specific things you appreciate about your partner.
2. List all the possible solutions you can both think of whether they are practical or not. Write down at least ten solutions without censoring them or discussing them. Then go back and cross out any that either person could not consider. Choose the best idea of the remaining ones to try out.
3. These guidelines will take practice. Don't expect yourself or your partner to be able to follow them all immediately. Your session together is successful if you understand a little more about each other even if you do not reach solutions the first time. See previous posts on Communication Rules and Repetitive Arguments in Marriage.
“Be of one mind, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds.” 1 Peter 3:8 NLT