Do You Hear What I See?

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If you’re like me, you’ve often interpreted your wife’s words incorrectly. For example, if my wife says, “fine” but her arms are crossed, her eyes are like slits, and her tone is sharp enough to cut wood, it doesn’t mean everything is okay. Or when you ask your spouse, “What’s wrong?” and they reply, “Nothing.” But their eyes are looking away, their voice is high and kind of sing-song, and their body is stiff, so you can tell something is definitely wrong. You just don’t know what it is and they don’t want to tell you, because they think you should already know. But honestly, you don’t.

Now I’m just giving you the male’s perspective. I’m sure that as guys, we display our own kind of nonverbal language that frustrates the heck out of our wives. So, how do couples avoid this kind of nonsensical banter and talk to each other straight up?

Research shows that more than half (some research shows up to 70%) of communication takes place nonverbally. When you speak one-on-one or in front of a group, your listeners make an assessment of you and your message based on what they see as well as what they hear. They use their visual impressions to determine if you’re sincere, if you truly believe what you’re saying, if you’re interested in them, and if you’re confident and comfortable with the situation.

This means that effective communication in your marriage takes careful attention—which is probably something men struggle with more than women! This should be awareness of not just the words that get said but the actions that go along with them.

Some of the things to try if you want to keep body language from getting in the way of what you’re really saying is to eliminate mannerisms such as pacing, finger tapping, fidgeting, and rocking back and forth. These habits often send messages that are not intentional and can even make listeners feel unimportant, devalued, or flat-out hurt.

When your behavior contains mannerisms like these that don’t match with what you are saying, then the actions take away from the words. When your actions match your words, there is more power in your words.