Words Can Inspire or Deflate

It’s important that husband and wife talk together regularly. That’s how you grow a good relationship. But how you talk to each other will make or break your marriage, because words are powerful.

Too often, people are careless with their words, giving no thought to what they’re doing to their mate. Or worse, some are intentionally cruel with their words, actually trying to hurt, damage, or destroy the one they’re supposed to love.

Words can inspire or deflate the person you’re talking with. Imagine the impact of hearing your husband or wife telling you every day, “You are wonderful. You’re good-looking. You’re smart. You can do anything you put your mind to.” Now, imagine what happens if instead, what you hear every day is, “You’re dumb. You’ll never amount to much. You can’t do anything right.”

When our kids were young, we started telling them, “You are talented and creative.” I don’t know how many zillion times they heard it, but we told them pretty often. I’m pretty sure they believed it then, and I think they still do. There’s a certain sense of people becoming what they believe. Therefore, it’s important that we give the right messages.

Words Have the Power of Life and Death

Words can kill or heal. Every time you insult, name-call, or say something derogatory to your partner, you are bringing illness or death. It’s like your words are a thermostat or volume control. By speaking positives, encouragement, and inspiration, you’re turning up hope, confidence, health, and life. But by speaking negatives, discouragement, and insults, you’re turning up despair, stress, sickness, and death.

The ramifications are far-reaching, impacting your partner’s health, self-confidence, and other relationships. It can affect performance in any area of life: work or school, athletics, driving, or sex. If you’re on the same team, you want your teammate to be as healthy as possible. So, you don’t speak in ways that lead to sickness and death. Instead, you are careful to promote life, health, and joy. And you do that with your words.

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Life & Death: the Power of the Tongue

Proverbs 18:21 says life and death are in the power of the tongue.

When I came across Deborah Tannen’s book, You Just Don’t Understand, it looked good, so I bought it, took it home, and placed it on my nightstand. That night I picked it up and started reading, and reading, and reading. The more I read, the more I laughed out loud. The subtitle—what it’s really all about—is Men and Women in Conversation.

“What are you laughing about?” my wife wondered.

“I’m laughing cause she’s talking about you and me.”

“What?”

Every night I read a few more pages, still laughing. I’m sure Dr. Tannen didn’t mean for her book to be taken as a comedy. She wrote it as a straight-forward description of the way men and women communicate and fail to communicate, based on the way they think and their goals and purposes in the relationship. But when you see yourself and your spouse on every page, it makes you wonder, How did she know that’s what we do?

How Did She Know What We Do?

I think I learned more about communication with my wife from Tannen’s writing than from any other source. It was easy to see my wife’s foibles and laugh about them. Aha! See? That’s what you do! But then to read about what I do was a real eye-opener. I had to own up to my own patterns and behaviors.

What I learned was that Linda and I are pretty normal in how we communicate. In many ways, we fall into the stereotypes of male and female. But the way Dr. Tannen tells the stories is so funny. I called it my evening devotions. I had to read more.

One of the principles she discusses is the 3-fold asymmetry between the way men and women think and communicate.

  • Men talk to Report; women talk to Rapport.
  • When there’s a problem, men move immediately into Fix-it mode; women move into Affirmation mode.
  • Men speak to establish Hierarchy; women speak to establish Community.

Of course, these are generalities. There are men and women at both ends of each spectrum. All too often, however, husband and wife reach a stalemate because of their differences. Not understanding their communication styles and their subconscious purposes, they become frustrated or angry with each other, and that’s when they say things that hurt the other.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. What it’s saying is we can choose the easy, angry words and slice each other to shreds, destroying each other and the marriage in the process. Or, we can carefully choose words that affirm, heal, and build each other up. When we do that, we have a fantastic opportunity to create a marriage that’ll last a lifetime.

You can read more about this in chapter 9 of my book, WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage

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