Overcome communication barriers in any relationship by taking these steps to demonstrate grace.
I’ll never forget the fight that caused me to momentarily wonder if I’d married the wrong woman.
We had only been married about a week and we were attempting one of our first joint tasks to set up our home. We were trying to hang a picture over the fireplace when everything quickly took a sharp left turn.
First, let me explain. Before marriage, we did not fight. Instead, our idyllic courtship was filled with prayer, Bible study, and singing together. Sounds perfect, right? But as we attempted this task, we saw different sides of one another. Once we began to disagree, what became a difference of opinion turned into a massive blowout fight. I ended up leaving the house and am not proud to admit, quickly wondered if I had made a mistake marrying my truly lovely wife. I am certain she had similar thoughts. How could we be at such odds over something as silly as hanging a picture?
As anyone in a relationship can imagine, this wasn’t our last fight. Over decades of marriage, we’ve come to understand the critical nature of communicating effectively and have worked hard to be aware of and overcome universal differences that have prompted so many people to give up on relationships.
In this article, we’ll explore those differences and what God has to say about them. Also, you’ll take away some very practical steps to overcoming communication barriers in your relationships. A lot of references point to a marriage relationship, but the principles apply to every relationship you encounter.
To jump straight to the four steps to help you overcome communication barriers, use the links below.
Maybe you don’t have a temper, but I bet you’ve been in similar situations. Have you ever tried to communicate with a friend, family member, or spouse and instead, hit a brick wall? Here are some examples of things that can quickly contribute to miscommunication and, ultimately, quarrels.
- Are you quick to place blame when things don’t go as planned?
- Is the friend you spend time with systematic and you’re spontaneous?
- Do you believe your spouse is too task-oriented and not relational enough?
- Are you overly sensitive because of a trauma or rejection in your childhood?
These are all reasons for friction in relationships and, when two people have trouble hearing and understanding each other, these communication barriers are hard to overcome.
Sometimes, we’re tempted to “assume our spouse should know what we mean or that they should understand how we are feeling just by looking at our facial expressions,” as pointed out on The Healthy Marriage. We all know where this leads — to more brick walls and tension.
Instead of letting frustration turn into bitterness and resentment, start from a place of knowledge and compassion. Be aware of the universal areas in a relationship where differences have a big impact. Here are a few.
4 COMMON DIFFERENCES THAT CREATE BARRIERS
1. Our Sinful Nature
Because of the Fall, recorded in Genesis 3, our relationship with God, our mate, and the world are short-circuited. We are selfish and ashamed. Furthermore, the differences that were originally designed to complement and complete one another have become sources of friction, confusion, and competition.
Differences as simple as introversion and extroversion can have a huge impact on relationships, particularly marriage. The same goes for one partner who’s analytical and factual and the other who’s an abstract dreamer. Imagine building a house together or navigating a move.
The vast majority of men and women fall somewhere within the typical gender tendencies. For instance, males tend to be more achievement focused and women tend to be more relationally focused. As another example, men tend to be more theoretical and generalist and women tend to be more specific and detail oriented. These differences have been the origin of communication barriers for thousands of years.
Our history and baggage inform every aspect of our relationships. Everything from our upbringing to experiences of traumatic events makes an impact.Experiencing tension in a relationship? Identify the common differences that can create barriers, like personal history, gender, personality, and -- let's be honest -- our sinful tendencies. Click To Tweet
BECOMING AGENTS OF GOD’S GRACE
Being aware of our differences allows us to acknowledge, understand, and appreciate them. What a great opportunity to become an agent of God’s grace!
But it’s not always that simple, right? That’s why I’m going to share the action plan I’ve seen transform relationships, my marriage included.
4 Steps to Help You Overcome Communication Barriers in Relationships
1. RECEIVE God’s Love
Jesus lived a perfect life and modeled grace and kindness in every relationship. Do you know Him personally?
We can get great advice and make progress in our relationships, but unless you’re right with God, it will only stay afloat for so long. Because it’s only through His strength and example that we can demonstrate the kind of grace that is required in a relationship with another imperfect human, especially in marriage.
Or maybe you know God, but He doesn’t have a seat at your table right now. It’s time to get right with Him.
You will never get right with your mate until there is vitality and power in your relationship with Christ.
Who is Jesus to you? Who Is Jesus? 4 Questions That Uncover Who He Really Is
2. Pick ONE relationship to focus on this week.
Think of one person that comes to mind whom you would like to love more deeply. Maybe your relationship is lacking connection. I might be your spouse, a parent, a child, or a friend.
Do you find it hard to express what’s truly in your heart?
Have you drifted from someone, and you want to clear the air?
Are you trying to express God’s love to a colleague but you’re just not connecting?
While you take steps to overcome communication barriers in that relationship, first acknowledge that communication supersedes the spoken word. Here’s the breakdown of different ways we communicate:
- 55% – Body language and facial expression
- 38% – Tone of voice
- 7% – Words
No wonder we often misread each other! Keep in mind the messages you’re sending through the medium of body language, facial expression, and tone of voice. Work hard to match those non-verbals to your intended meaning.
3. IDENTIFY Their Primary Love Language
Gary Chapman wrote a bestselling book called The Five Love Languages. The book identifies the different ways we receive and give love based on our different personalities. When we learn to recognize those differences, we can get to the root of our conflicts and learn how to grow closer.
There’s a lot to learn about love languages and I highly encourage you to read the book, but here’s a snapshot of each language:
- Quality time
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
If you can’t detect someone’s language, consider the subject of your arguments. For example, does your husband get frustrated when you don’t want to sit with him and watch a television program in the evening? Or does your wife get frustrated by your eagerness to get outside and work on a quiet Saturday morning and not sip coffee together? It’s likely these people speak the love language of quality time.
4. CHOOSE to “Speak” Their Language
Think of the person you chose to focus on this week. Can you detect one of their love languages?
Here’s the plan: For the next 7 days, regardless of how they respond, choose to love them using their language. This way, they will be most likely to receive it as an act of love from you. Here are a few ideas:
- Write a sweet note to be placed in an unexpected area to be discovered if they appreciate words of affirmation.
- Do they receive love through acts of service? Take out the garbage without being asked to do so.
- Beautifully wrap a simple present for your loved one whose love language is gifts.
Get creative and repeat acts of love in their language for an entire week, making note of the changes in the relationship.I highly recommend learning your partner's love language so you can break through barriers in your relationship. Then, for 7 days, work hard to use their language to communicate love. You'll be amazed by the results! Click To Tweet
Refine each other: 5 Bible Verses To Inspire and Direct Biblical Accountability Relationships
RELATIONSHIP TRANSFORMATION AWAITS
None of these steps come with a guarantee that you and your loved one will always understand one another and will avoid every future misunderstanding. But, once you get right with God and start speaking in the love language of your identified person, I am confident that you will be poised to overcome the communication barriers within that relationship.
When obstacles come, you’ll be equipped to identify their origin and give them grace. And when a relationship needs repairing, you have these steps to help you overcome barriers and extend God’s grace.
Learn why we fight with those we love, what four types of love are taught in the Scriptures and the secret to real romance in Chip’s series entitled Real Love in Real Life.
Can you share an example of your love language demonstrated well to you? Leave a comment below.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip