Have you ever been so intent on getting your point across (and proving you are right!) that your voice rose to a feverish pitch when “discussing” an issue with your loved one? Our tones, facial expressions and attitude can close the other off far and above the content.
Sarah and I have certainly been guilty of this and before we know it we’re on the Crazy Cycle. As a result, we introduced a phrase into our marriage: “You can be right, but wrong at the top of your voice.”
I know Sarah and I are not alone. I have counseled many couples where the wife complains that the husband comes across as harsh and unloving. From her perspective, he is frowning with disapproval or sounding stern, even angry. But according to his point of view, he is simply making his point firmly and accurately. He can be oblivious to the damaging effects of his angry glare.
At the same time I have had many wives tell me they know they are guilty of a negative tone of voice and a sour look on their face. They don’t necessarily sound harsh; theirs is more a tone of contempt, often accompanied by a rolling of the eyes. Many women think they are saying what needs to be said; they even think they are doing a good job of saying it respectfully. But they don’t see or hear what their husband sees and hears from his perspective.
The right tone of voice & expression on your face is crucial to effective communication. Marital researchers agree that a huge percentage of communication problems between husband and wife are due not to what is said but how it is said – the attitude and tone of voice.
The point here is not to suggest these men or women are mean-spirited. But Scripture reminds us of how important it is for us to take time to listen and speak carefully. From James 1:19 comes advice no husband or wife can overlook: “Know this, my beloved brothers: Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (ESV).”
This verse has positively impacted my marriage. It is as if the Lord is tapping me on the shoulder, saying in that inaudible but very clear way, “Listen first, Emerson. Be as quick to listen as you are to speak. In fact, listen first a lot more often. And keep your temper. Be slow to get angry because what you think Sarah might have said or done isn’t as bad as your first impulse might tell you.”
This can be applied to all communication. We must make attitude adjustments and break old habits. Difficult, yes, but it can be done if you truly want to make these changes.
Are you teachable on this subject? Are you willing to allow God to gently lead you as you acknowledge this may be a serious problem? Are you guilty of being right, but wrong at the top of your voice?
Excerpts taken from The Language of Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.