When Not to Talk: 7 Ways to Decide Whether Silence is Best
By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” – Proverbs 10:19
Communication is one of the most important and essential building blocks to a healthy marriage and lifelong love. But sometimes, we can complicate the situations we face with our spouse by over-communicating–and it’s times like these when we need to be able to read each situation and decide whether or not we should continue talking about it.
Silence can be a balm when we’re dealing with issues that are highly emotional, unresolved, or which have brought us to a stalemate with our spouse. Choosing to not speak–to refrain from pushing each other for answers or resolutions–can help us solve problems that might have seemed unsolvable before. Creating that space for one another can mean the difference between a solution and a long-term gridlock.
So how do you know when it’s time to give a topic a rest? We’ve compiled 7 questions to ask yourself when one or both of you has run a subject into the ground. With a little time and space, you’ll (hopefully!) be able to put your heads back together and land on a solution that works for both of you.
Let’s get started.
1. ARE YOU TWO ALL TALK, BUT NO ACTION?
Have you talked circles around what needs to be done to solve a particular problem…yet taken no action toward solving it? Over-analyzing, over-thinking, and over-discussing an issue can lead to “analysis paralysis”–in other words, you get stuck in a proverbial spin cycle that keeps you talking, but never results in you taking charge and taking action. And unfortunately, you find yourselves with more pressure and less energy to do the things that need to be done.
Resolution Tip: When you find yourselves over-analyzing, hit the brakes on the talk and spark momentum by saying something like, “Alright, we’ve got this covered. Let’s make it happen.” End the spin and put that energy into motion!
2. ARE YOU GIVING TOO MUCH UNSOLICITED ADVICE?
We love our spouses so much, it can be tempting to try to “fix” their bad habits by offering too much unwanted critique. Maybe we don’t like how they cook, their clutter, or their propensity for being tardy all the time, so we say little things like, “It would be so much better if you could (fill in the blank),” or “You’ll make us late if you (fill in the blank).” This can make your spouse feel judged and inadequate.
Resolution Tip: If you absolutely must share an opinion or piece of advice, try saying something to make it more palatable, like, “I know you didn’t ask for my advice, but can’t I tell you where my brain’s going?” But for the most part, try to stop inserting your opinion at every turn because it’s not helping (we promise).
3. DO YOU REMEMBER THE PROBLEM YOU WERE DISCUSSING IN THE FIRST PLACE?
We’ve all been there–you get into a majorly heated discussion with your spouse about one thing, only to experience an avalanche of other topics and issues that are completely unrelated to what started this whole conversation in the first place. Maybe a discussion about which countertops to choose for the kitchen remodel just deteriorated into a character assassination competition involving the in-laws. Whatever the case, there’s no way you can resolve anything when you’re out in left field arguing over an unrelated topic.
Resolution Tip: When your conversation derails into unrelated territory, take a time-out by saying, “Hey, what are we doing? We need to cool down.” (Because wait–what was the first problem, again? We can’t even remember.)
(Tips 4-7 coming in a future post.)
If you would like help with your marriage or relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our coaches or counselors.