In my last post, I shared how Sarah uses certain hot-button words that can push my buttons – and how I’ve learned to not react so defensively. I hope you took some time to figure out what the hot-button words are in your relationship so you can stop the crazy cycle before it spins out of control! Recognizing where we irritate our spouse – and being willing to do something about it – goes a long way towards improving communication.
Just like Sarah has some words that push my buttons, I’m guilty of a few phrases that push hers. The thing about marriage is – it takes two!
Words I use that can set Sarah off are “Honey, may I make a suggestion?” When I say these words, Sarah often hears a message of genuine disapproval. Why is this so? Because the thing about hot-button words is that, when they are spoken, the listener tends to expect the worst possible meaning. For example, suppose I say, “Sarah, may I make a suggestion to you concerning your role as vice president of Love and Respect Ministries?” Immediately, Sarah is tempted to think, “I am failing in my role as VP, and it is so serious I am jeopardizing the entire Love and Respect operation.” In her mind Sarah knows this is not so, but emotionally she experiences an impulsive surge that tells her she has done something that deserves a pink slip.
Over the years Sarah has learned not to allow that impulsive surge to cause her to react defensively. She realizes that when I say, “May I make a suggestion?” I am seeking to approach her in a sensitive manner. My comments are truly suggestions for her to receive and use as she sees fit.
At this point in our marriage, because of her natural impulses, Sarah does not shout for joy when I infrequently say, “May I make a suggestion?” Instead she engages me with maturity and a willingness to listen and, after the conversation, expresses appreciation for my input. The hot button is a warm button now.
Using and reacting to hot-button words is just one way Sarah and I can start spinning on the Crazy Cycle like everyone else, but we can find ways to slow and stop the craziness. As Sarah puts it, “We go there, but we don’t stay there.”
One final word about this topic: Yes, I recognize that a spouse can be immature or reactionary due to “issues” that need to be resolved. But what good does it do to shout, “You have issues! That’s why you react to my words that way. You’re just too sensitive! Grow up.” I doubt that any of us has had success with that approach!
So, what is the alternative? We are all more apt to recognize our personal issues with hot-button words if we are approached with love and respect. Let’s not underestimate the power of words and our male and female differences as we learn to communicate the love and respect way!
Excerpts taken from The Language of Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.