A very significant part of any discussion that you have with your spouse (or anyone for that matter) is how it begins. Marriage expert John Gottman asserts that the first three minutes of a conversation will determine where the discussion ends up. If a conversation begins with what he calls “harsh start up” odds are it will go nowhere, and fast. Actually, it will go somewhere, downhill.

What is harsh start up? It is exactly what it sounds like. It is when you approach your partner to talk about something, but do so in a harsh manner. It is where you go into the conversation with both gun barrels a’blazin. It usually involves an attack, placing blame, or just criticizing the other person for something they have done.

In fact, if the first three minutes of the conversation start badly, the plane will be very difficult to pull up, if not impossible. Conversations that start of harsh usually end on a bad note. So often, we go straight for the jugular in our exchange, and are then surprised that we have to clean the blood off the walls afterwards.

When we don’t approach our spouses with respect, even on hot button issues for us, the desired result of our discussion with them will always be elusive. When we hit our partners with our heavy firepower, a barrage of words that is anything but respectful, generally they are defensive and their first tendency is to fire back. It becomes a ping pong match, with each batting back an angrier word until things self destruct.

The interesting thing is, when a conversation becomes heated, and one or both partners become emotionally overwhelmed, the ability to listen reduces. In fact, our bodies undergo a physiological change to where our brains cannot receive and process information. So if we continue having conversations once it gets to this point, we will not be heard and the exchange will pull us farther away from our spouse.

We must remember, when it comes to communicating, we have a small window for the conversation to be effective. When we don’t begin with respect that window gets boarded up quick. We must approach our spouse the way we would like to be approached. Call it the golden rule of conversation, if you will. Begin all discussions in a soft way, regardless of how disgruntled, overwhelmed, fed up, or angry you are.

And if your spouse approaches you with harsh start up, instead of un-holstering your own guns for a word duel, respond with respect. Perhaps suggest that you both take a break and resume the conversation later. It might just turn the tides and then something meaningful can come from the discussion.

If we begin the discussion in a harsh way, we will crash and burn every time!

A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. – Proverbs 15:1

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh