Building in Cushions for Better Communication

One of my co-workers is taking a class on communication and each week in staff meeting he shares a tidbit from his most recent class. Last week he shared a tool that is hard to put into practice, but could be valuable when a potentially difficult conversation could be at hand. Basically, the tool was to build in a “cushion” when someone asks you your opinion of something and don’t answer right away. They gave several examples of how to do this: (1) ask clarifying questions, (2) suggest that you can understand their point of view, (3) tell a personal story that relates to what they are asking, etc. This give you time to determine the appropriate response and gives your emotions time to diffuse, if the subject at hand is a touchy one (or if you feel very stronly against the direction your counterpart is leaning). This way, your response is neutral and fair and not driven by deep, emotional feelings on your part.

This could be a super valuable tool in marriage. I think it’s fair to say that, more times than not, we respond quicky to our spouse’s request for an opinion without giving a lot of thought to it. Typically, we feel safe saying whatever we feel, whenever we feel it, to our spouse because . . . well . . . they are our spouse and they love us no matter what! So what if we bark at them or respond in a tone that says, “well, that is a stupid idea” or “that is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard!” But, imagine if we took time to “cushion” our response in such a way that we always responded with care and consideration. Now, that would be a great marriage tool!

Another aspect of this comes at night when an argument begins later in the evening and we feel that we have to “hash it out” before bed. Do we really need to resolve the issue before bed? I’d argue, “no, you don’t.” I think the big thing that needs to be resolved before bed is the anger piece. If both spouses agree that they will re-address the issue the next day and affirm each other that the relationship is solid, then why not sleep on it and build in a “cushion” for the situation to diffuse a bit? For many people, “sleeping on it” actually helps the emotional piece to simmer down enough to have a more constructive conversation.  The caveat here is that the situation must be resolved the following day. You can’t simply table an issue forever and expect it to go away.

In today’s fast-paced world where we respond to emails and texts within seconds of receiving them, it can be a true challenge to take the time needed to respond with love and care – even to our own spouses. But, friends, our words are so powerful and they deserve this “cushion” to make sure they are kind and loving. I encourage you to consider creating these “cushions” in your own life and marriage. And, if you have tools such as this that work well in your marriage, please share!

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