"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
Robert McCloskey, the popular writer and illustrator of several children's books from the past century, is often credited with stating, "I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." By revealing miscommunication as a persistent problem within marriages, McCloskey's words indirectly offer some of the best marriage advice a couple could receive: take the time to clearly understand what your spouse is communicating. While it may seem a little discouraging, this quote should actually spiritually motivate you to improve your marriage.
Misunderstandings happen when what one partner hears is not what the other partner intended. These miscommunications can easily contribute toward conflict and, left unchecked, will eventually lead toward relational breakdown. Henry Winkler understood this perhaps better than anyone when he said that: "Assumptions are the termites of relationships."
Assumptions cause many such misunderstandings. During a conversation, one partner might assume he or she knows what the other is saying without really listening. When that happens, the partner begins to operate on a false understanding of what the other was trying to communicate, which can lead to frustration, anger, and bitterness. If the misunderstanding is not corrected, the assumption could poison the relationship.
Such assumptions can emerge outside of conversations, too. If a wife arrives home late one evening, for example, the husband may jump to conclusions about where she has been. He could concoct all sorts of scenarios, ranging from shopping sprees to infidelity. In reality, however, perhaps a traffic jam, phone call, or out-of-service elevator caused the delay. Assumptions like this are usually easy to address and clear up. When left to fester, however, simple misunderstandings can lead to serious relational problems.
The New Testament provides wisdom for overcoming and avoiding such misunderstandings. James wrote, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19, NIV). If each partner within a marriage would intentionally seek to understand before being understood, most conflicts could be avoided and countless marriages could be saved.
James' advice about being slow to speak and slow to become angry should also be taken to heart by Christian couples who are striving to become better partners for one another. Trying to get your two cents in before waiting to understand the other person is a sure-fire road to miscommunication, as is getting angry before you take the time to hear someone out.
In examining how we communicate, it should be noted that words constitute only a small percentage of our communication. Albert Mehrabian, a former researcher and current Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, has conducted extensive research in the area of communication. He has concluded that seven percent of our feelings is communicated through words, 38 percent is communicated through how we say those words, and 55 percent is conveyed through body language. Non-verbal communication accounts for more than half of what we communicate.
Rather than simply relying on words, then, a spouse should attempt to learn the other spouse's body language. While a husband or wife may not verbally express that something is wrong, for example, a refusal to make eye contact may indicate that a problem does exist. In such a case, the other spouse can press a little harder to determine what the issue is and seek to rectify it.
Communication is an art that successful marriages embrace. Though mastering it will require perseverance and sensitivity, the long-term benefits for the relationship are well worth any short-term costs.
Christ Intercessory Prayer - John 17: 1-26
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. “I have revealed youto those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”