Communication is an important part of all close human relationships, especially within marriages. Partners must learn to communicate in a way that is constructive and positive and does not create further strains on the relationship. In fact, in one 2002 study published in "Personal Relationships," researchers Frank Fincham and Steven Beach found that constructive communication between partners was directly correlated with rates of forgiveness in males.
Communicate at a time when you have your husband's attention. In other words, do not attempt to start an important conversation while the television is on or while he is going through the mail, for example. This can immediately start the conversation off on a negative note because he may feel as if you are intruding on what he is doing and you may feel he's not engaged in the conversation and speak accordingly, which can push him away. Communicating with him when you have his full attention helps facilitate a better overall conversation.
Stay on topic and speak in an honest and frank way. Try to avoid superfluous or roundabout discussion when talking about something important. Men tend to think objectively and generally respond better to facts and figures whereas women are more subjective and think emotionally. While researchers aren't sure exactly why this tends to be the case, a 2008 study published in the journal of "Group Processes and Intergroup Relations" by Katerie McRae and colleagues found that males generally showed less amygdala activity, the part of the brain which is associated with emotional response. Your husband may appreciate you sticking to the point without getting overly emotional, and may respond more positively to what you are trying to say.
Pay attention to nonverbal body language. Picking up on subtle cues will allow you to express that you understand how your husband is feeling. If you sense that your husband is bored or upset, bring it up but explain that you understand why he may feel that way. Speaking with empathy can help your husband feel understood and the conversation will become more constructive. According to Erina MacGeorge and colleagues in an article published in "Sex Roles" in 2004, men respond equally as well as women do when it comes to typical female modes of communication, such as empathic speaking. By speaking with empathy, your husband will feel less defensive and become more open to listening to what you have to say.
Touch your husband gently while speaking with him. This will show him that you care and help to keep him engaged in the conversation. People are physically driven by nature. Even something as slight as briefly touching his shoulder will assist in keeping him focused on what you are trying to say. In most situations, by adding a touch factor to your conversation you are engaging a third sense, beyond sight and hearing, and thus stimulating the person you are speaking with to become even further engaged in what is going on.
Maintain eye contact with your husband. This will show him that you are listening to and engaged in what he is saying. Avoid body language which shows boredom or anger such as crossing your arms or tapping your foot while talking. If your husband thinks that you are bored with what he is saying, or that you are showing signs of aggravation or anger, he may misinterpret these cues as suggesting that you don't care or want to listen to what he is saying. If this happens, he may begin to feel that there's no point in speaking if you have already made up your mind and simply decide to end the conversation completely.
Tell your husband that you love him. Validating your feelings for him is an important part of constructive communication. No matter what the subject of the discussion is, make sure that you end the talk on a positive note by confirming your love and respect for him.
- Important communication should always be done in person. Speaking over the phone, although convenient, does not allow you to have access to important parts of the process such as nonverbal body language and touch.
Alizah Scherr has worked as a professional school counselor in a public school system for more than five years. She has a master's degree in education and is certified as a counselor.