I sometimes think that I’m nicer to my wife, Susan, than I really am. Why? Let me explain. I’m a wordsmith. Words matter. Words have meaning. I try to choose my words very carefully, and most of the time I think I do a fair job in choosing the right words for the situation I’m in. But that’s the problem, I’m so focused on my words that I’m not focused on how I say those words.
Recently, I said something to Susan (I don’t recall exactly what) that I thought was harmless. Her response took me by surprise: “Well, that wasn’t very nice!”
“What was wrong with what I said?” I asked incredulously? Clearly she hadn’t appreciated how carefully I had chosen my words.
Her answer was simple and effective. She said “It’s not what you said, but how you said it.”
As she explained how I said it, I realized she was right. It was a blind spot for me that she shed some light on.
There’s a fine line between being curt and courteous with our spouse, because what we communicate is always more than the mere words we say. In fact, we can say the very same words in different ways and we’ll be perceived differently, sometimes incorrectly, because of the way we say them. There are three things that we need to remember about communicating with our spouses that will determine whether the words we say are perceived as either curt and biting, or courteous and kind.
First, remember your tone of voice.
One of the reasons emails and texts can be misunderstood, and sometimes an even a dangerous method of communication, is because you can’t hear a person’s tone of voice. The advantage of speaking in person is that tone can add a layer of meaning to what we’re saying, for better or for worse. So, intentionally think about your tone when speaking with your spouse.
If you’re having trouble “hearing” your own tone of voice, give your spouse the opportunity to tell you what kind of tone she’s hearing, even if it’s not the tone you’re intending to convey. Try not to be defensive. If what you intend is different than what is heard, look at that feedback as a gift to help you get better at communicating.
Second, remember your body language.
The way you use your body, non-verbally, can change an innocent comment into something very negative. Arms folded? Eyes rolling? Lack of eye contact? Clenched jaw? Slumped posture? Smirky smile? They all communicate the wrong thing when you’re trying to avoid being viewed as uncaring, rude, or upset. Instead, keep your arms open, sit forward, look directly at your spouse, and relax your jaw and brow.
Third, remember your attitude.
Our attitude often reflects what we really believe, think, or feel and it is expressed through our words, tone of voice, and body language. So if you find yourself continuing to struggle with being curt with your spouse, start thinking about what underlying issue may be causing the negative attitude. Then, address it with your spouse.
How would you generally grade yourself in your tone of voice, body language and attitude when speaking with your spouse? Would you please leave your comment below?