Give me a few short minutes here today and I can help you improve communication in your marriage. Let's start with the basic communication model that I teach in leadership training, in couple’s seminars in anything that involves communication. It starts with an understanding of where the message is going. Start with a sender of the message. If it's a verbal communication, this is the speaker. If it's radio and television, this is the point of origin for the signal. And then it goes over to a receiver. The message travels from the sender to the receiver and in verbal communication this is the speaker and the listener.

Let's say that the sender has message A in mind. This is what I want to communicate to you, if you are the receiver. What happens first? First, the sender has to encode the message. So, encoding is the way that the sender puts the message into some kind of a deliverable medium. Encoding is typically language. So today, we're using English here at Live On Purpose TV. I'm encoding everything that I want to send to you in English. Then the message travels over to the receiver but what has to happen on that end? Obviously, the receiver has to do some decoding. Which if you don't speak English, you're probably looking at the subtitles because that decodes it into your language. But if you already speak English, you've already got a decoder installed. What if I were to slip into another language you didn’t speak? Then you wouldn’t have a decoder for the message and wouldn’t understand what I was saying.

But there is one other thing, on the way, that signal has to pass through this big cloud of noise. And this can be physical noise. It could be mental noise. It could be all the stuff that's going on in the brain of either the sender or the receiver. All of this noise gets in the way. So that often what happens is the receiver picks up B, not A. And then the receiver reacts to and responds to and assumes that B is what was intended. When it could be totally different from what the sender was sending. With everything that goes on, it's amazing we can communicate at all. What do we do to improve a communication based on this model? Let's talk about four specific strategies that take all of this into account.

In a marriage, there's even more noise than there is in some other communications. Because of the relationship dynamics. Because of the history, because of how you've been hurt in the past, whatever it is. So, this first step is to calm the noise in your own mind. I say in your mind but I also mean in your body. When you get triggered emotionally, your body triggers chemicals that get pumped into your bloodstream. We call this flooding. Picture the analogy of a flood in your home while you're being flooded by emotion or affect or feelings. We have to calm the flooding in order for you to do what's next. Because your brain operates very differently when you're in fight-or-flight mode or when you're flooded emotionally than when you're thinking logically and rationally. So, step 1: Calm the noise in your own mind and body.

Once you've got yourself calmed a bit and the noise has subsided, your next job is to listen to understand. You remember in the model, there is a sender and receiver. Assume that you are the receiver first. And your goal is to listen. Now, the letters in the word listen are exactly the same as the letters in the word silent. Which is coincidental probably, but it's useful. So, you want to be silent. It is more than just being quiet. And you've been in conversations before where somebody's being quiet but you can tell they are not listening. It's like the lights are on but nobody's home. Don't be that person. You are intently listening to understand. Your goal is to make sure that A equals A. And you are on the receiver side of that. So, you are listening just as carefully as you can to what's being shared with you so that you can understand what's going on in the sender's mind. Your goal is simply to understand. Understanding and agreeing are not the same thing. That's going to help, isn't it? All you want to do is understand. If you understand then you won this round.

 Now, after the sender has had a chance to express what they are thinking and you are listening to receive over here to make sure you understand, take a moment. This is an extra step, okay? Take a moment to reflect back to the sender your understanding of what A is. Not what you think it is. Not your interpretation of it. Not your spin on it. The way they see it. Because that's really important for the next step. It's so crucial to understand because the next step is that you are going to postpone your turn to be understood until your spouse (the sender) is completely satisfied that you understand their position. Think about what I'm saying. We're pushing the pause button. I added this as an extra step because people don't do this. They're like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Got it.” And then they move into their own discourse or their rebuttal or whatever it is. We're not going there. This step is to pause and postpone your need to be understood. Until your spouse, your partner, the sender is completely satisfied that you get it. That you understand their position. Can you do this? This takes some maturity, Everything inside of you just wants to clear it up or let them know or express where you are coming from. Yeah, push the pause button.

Step 4, you get to express your position to be understood. We've got the same goal here. It's just that you switched parts, okay? You used to be the receiver where you were listening to understand. Now, you're moving over to be the sender where you are expressing to be understood. Notice the goal here is not to persuade or to convince or to rebut or to argue with what you just heard. It's simply to be understood. Remember, we want A to equal A. So, you are going to do everything that you can to encode your message in a language that's understood by your receiver, your listener. When we understand each other’s position, we can find commonality to help us toward a resolution.

Visit Dr. Paul at Live On Purpose TV on YouTube to learn more.