This is the second habit in a series on Relationship Rescue Tips.
For the first, remember to practice listening and understanding. Just to review, we will be looking at certain practices that will help your marriage, and probably all of your relationships. These are habits you can start practicing today. They are simple and specific, so no matter what your current situation, practicing these new skills will help you have a better life and better relationships.
The second habit is to practice speaking with patience, kindness and respect.
Most of us probably don’t do this naturally, so it will take some intention on our part to change our ways. When we really want to get something across to someone else, we tend to emphasize the importance of what we are trying to say by being frustrated, angry and impatient. Even though you may feel frustrated, etc. it is best to approach other people with patience. Most people do not react well to being yelled at, or to being put down or to being called names. I know what you’re thinking! “(S)he deserves to be yelled at! I have tried being nice and (s)he just ignored me! It is my responsibility to make sure my spouse understand s just how upset I am, and how (s)he has to change—NOW!”
Breathe. Good job.
Now, here are some specific ways to practice speaking with patience, kindness and respect. I promise you, even if this seems very alien to you, you will love the results of this one habit. You can do this! It doesn’t matter if no one in your family talks this way. The more you do it, the more it will become a habit, and the more natural it will feel.
- Lower your voice. Don’t yell. If you have to walk over to your spouse so (s)he can hear you, do so.
- Smile when you are speaking, or right before you speak.
- Preface what you are going to say with a nice pet name, for example, “My darling, I have something I need to talk with you about. Is now a good time?”
- Preface requests and demands with polite qualifying statements, for example, “Would you mind…”, “Do you think you could…”,”May I ask you to…”.
- Say “Thank you.”
- Say “I really appreciate you doing this.”
- Every time you say your spouse’s name, it shouldn’t be followed by something negative or a demand. Say his/her name, wait for him/her to pay attention, and then give him/her a compliment. (S)he will learn you are not just a source of extra work and unfulfilled longings.
- As much as possible, try not to be in a hurry. When we are in a hurry, it is very easy for everything we say to have an element of impatience attached to it.
- Understand that your spouse is a separate person, and deserves to be treated with respect, just because (s)he is a human being. Ask yourself if you would speak to a stranger in the grocery store the way you speak to your spouse. If the answer is no, you know this is great habit for you to practice. (By the way, strangers in grocery stores deserve respect as well.)
Don’t worry that your spouse will ignore you if you speak softly. (S)he has probably learned to ignore you because you are loud and upset. Speaking with patience, kindness and respect makes it safe for you and your spouse to talk about anything, including those really difficult subjects. The greatest power in the world is love, and this habit conveys love in a tangible way. Bonus…you will probably get a lot more of what you ask for! (Not that you are practicing this habit for selfish gain!)