How To Improve Communication With Your Spouse

Hi! Welcome to Hero TV. I’m Dr. Paul Jenkins. Give me a few minutes today to share with you something powerful. I’ve been so excited for this particular episode. We will be talking about how to communicate better with your spouse. In my 22 years of professional psychology experience I’ve worked with a lot of couples and one of the main things that they come in for assistance with is communication. Help us to communicate better. Okay. I have found that 100% of the couples communicate. Yeah. The question is how do they communicate? So that’s really what we’re going to focus on and to put some context on this, I had an opportunity probably two decades ago to hear Dr John Gottman present the research that he has summarized in this book the seven principles for making marriage work. And Dr. Gottman, pointed out that roughly 70% It’s a huge number of the problems in a marriage are unresolvable. Now I share that with some couples and they just throw their hands in the air and they think, oh what’s the use? what are we going to do? And others just feel relieved because they realize they’re not so strange. Here’s what was so interesting in Dr. Gottman’s research. He found that that number was true of miserable, highly conflicted, headed for divorced couples that makes sense right? He also found that that was true of happy, well-adjusted, stable satisfied couples. There was no difference in the number of unresolvable problems or quite frankly the magnitude or nature of those problems between these two groups. You could not even distinguish which group they were in based on that metric. Now that’s very interesting. When I came home from this conference I shared this with my wife. I’d spent two days at this conference and I shared this with her then she said, “oh so what it comes down to is do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Is that what you learned in two days Paul?”. Yeah that’s pretty much it. And it is that simple. So we got to get clear about what it is that works and what doesn’t work. When we’re communicating as couples let’s go back to Gottman’s research because he brags in his book that he can do, he can predict divorce in one interview and here’s how he does it. He found in his research a four-part process that predictably put people on this side of the board and he called it the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

It starts with criticism. Criticism doesn’t even have to be real or intended. As long as it’s perceived it works. And it leads to the next of these four horsemen called defensiveness. now this makes sense right? because if you’re being attacked what do you want to do next? Well of course you want to get your shield up. You want to protect yourself. That makes total sense. Defensiveness leads to the next one Gatlin called it contempt. Now contempt is kind of like the offensiveness turned hostile. So you’ve got your shield up now you draw your sword and you try to get some jabs in there and it’s the counter-attack. All of this conflict is not fun so that leads to the final one Gatlin called the last Horseman, stonewalling. Stonewalling is a more permanent form of defensiveness. It’s like building up a stone wall. It’s turning away from each other instead of toward it turning toward each other. So now I don’t share this with you to alarm you because you probably do this in your marriage and most people do. Gatlin acknowledged that. What he pointed out is that if this becomes the habitual way that we interact with each other and communicate with each other about our unresolvable problems it predictably, statistically, leads to separation and divorce. Now he also pointed out, this is only true if you’re not willing to change it Glad he threw that one in. Because as a psychologist, I believe that people can change. I have no business doing this job if I didn’t believe that. So if you’re willing to change it, now what are we going to change it to? we’re going to change it to something that does work. So if our communication is based on correct principles, and I will suggest forward to you. There’s, there’s a number of principles that I think can be Helpful here. The first one I believe is positivity. Well I’m the positivity guy.

I’ve written two books on positivity, we’ve got other videos out there about positivity. You’ll find those. This is where it starts because it puts your mind in a position to actually handle things differently. And I like the way Wayne Dyer put this. He said, “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. That is so true of positivity And when you can get into a positive mode in your marriage, and in your communications, it makes all the difference. I’ve got all kinds of exercises that I take couples through to practice that positivity and you can find some as well. We’ll put some in the in the resources for this video. Positivity is the first one. Now, let’s let’s counteract the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and see what we can do over here. Compassion. I picked that word because it includes the word passion. And also because it has some implications about kindness and just being nice. I’ve got several colleagues who have simplified their approach to couples counseling to three words. Just be nice. Now that seems so simple. It’s hard to do when our brain gets into fight-or-flight mode if we’ve been thinking in terms of negativity and criticism and defensiveness. Compassion. Another one is respect. If we set that up as a contrast to the contempt. Respect, where you really value and communicate that value about what someone else thinks or feels you’re able to get outside of yourself and truly respect and honor that other person. And the fourth one that I’ll throw in here seem so obvious I’m going to label it as love. I, I’m convinced after a couple of decades as a psychologist and half a century on the planet, that every one of our interactions comes down to a choice. A simple choice between two alternatives. Either it’s a love choice or it’s a hate choice. Now I pick the word hate because people hate the word hate. But notice that, that may be true. What if your only choices as you interact and communicate with your spouse were to do something that is loving or to do something that is hateful. And I had one of my clients ask me recently, well what about indifference? what if you just are indifferent? I feel like indifference is a version of I don’t care which is a version of the hate choice. would you agree with that? so either it’s a love choice or a hate choice. When we get focused on positivity, compassion, respect, and love, that’s where it makes the big difference. Okay. Now that we’ve got the do more of what works and less of what doesn’t concept down, let’s go to communication specifically and I’ll share with you a quick model that will help you to understand what’s going on with the communication. In every communication we have a sender of a message and we have a receiver of the message. Now this is true in radio and television. It’s true in couple communication. Someone’s sending a message, someone receiving it. Now that’s pretty simple. Let’s say that sender, The sender has message “a” in mind. Whatever “a” represents, okay? The first thing that needs to happen is that, that message needs to be encoded. So the encoding happens over here on the sender side.


Now this is where we take the message and we put it into some kind of a code so that we can transmit it over to the receiver. The code we typically pick is language. I’m communicating to you in code right now it’s called English. Oh sorry. switched into another code right there that was Finnish. And for my Finnish friends you’ll know exactly what I just said. Now, encoding happens to the message and then it gets sent on over to the receiver, who’s going to decode the message. The decoding happens on this side. Now when I, when I kicked into Finnish you had a little problem with the decoding I’m guessing. I encoded it fairly well but you’ve got to be able to decode the message too. Before it even gets there it has to go through this cloud in the middle which we will label, “noise” Now, noise can be physical noise like a jackhammer or somebody playing a stereo really loud in the room or whatever or it could be noise in our own head. Alright you notice that you’re thinking about other things. Even as you’re watching this video you’re thinking of other things, that’s noise. Gender, background, culture, language, all of that creates different kinds of noise in our own head and you’ve done this before right? Where you’re talking to somebody and the lights are on but nobody’s home because you can tell there’s all kinds of noise going on. Well the, between the encoding the noise in the decoding often times the message received over here is very different from the message that was intended. And you’ve encountered this before. So, now that you know the model there’s two simple things that we’re going to do to address this. so number one is to listen, to understand. Now this is your first objective in communication. To listen, to understand. Please be humble enough and mature enough to take the first turn at listening. Now everybody wants to be heard. Right. Get it. Take the high road and become the listener. Now let’s break this down for a minute. There’s two words here that are important. Listen. Now the word listen? interestingly enough has exactly the same letters as the word silent. That’s probably not accidental. I don’t know maybe it’s a coincidence. But it’s interesting. Now, listening is more than just being silent because a lot of times when people are silent they’re not listening. They’re coming up with or dreaming up their rebuttal. They’re trying to think about what they’re going to say next or they’re listening for their chance to slip their little ideas in, right? That’s not what we’re talking about. Your objective is to understand. Agreeing and understanding are not the same thing so don’t get distracted by that. You want to make sure that “a” equals “a”. And if you fully understand that person, then we can move on to the next step. The next step is to express. This is where you become the sender. The same goal to be understood.


Now, notice you’re not expressing to persuade or to convince or to rebut. you are expressing to be understood so you encode it as carefully as you can. You pay attention to your body language, you to pay attention to your tone of voice, to your facial expressions. All that goes into it. Your goal is to express, to be understood. Basically folks, we want to make sure that “a” equals “a” and it takes some maturity and some practice and you can you can practice different exercises to do this. The model will help. As you as you improve your communication with your spouse, remember to do more of what works less of what doesn’t and let’s use effective communication to listen to understand and express to be understood. Thanks so much Paul. If you like this video be sure to like it and subscribe. Down below in the description I put a lot of helpful resources. And remember, live on purpose, make a difference, and be the hero. Oh

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