Biblical Communication: A Marriage Survival Art Session 5 Notes

Biblical Communication: A Marriage Survival Art

Session 5

Communication in Marriage is Difficult (part 4)

Feedback: Ask students to share their at home application experiences (getting to Level 1 communication and/or obstructions to communication).

A reminder: in marriage, communication is a tool we can use for deepening oneness. Now we come to the seventh reason why communication is difficult in marriage:

7. We do not practice good listening skills that can enhance effective communication

1.Be familiar with and adopt good listening habits. The following chart lists practices of both good and bad listeners (format and a few points from Fred Pryor handout 1979). I have listed some Scriptures previously mentioned in the Communication Nuggets from the Bible handout. Teach and class discussion of several points on chart (see notes on page following chart). 

Effective Listening Habits

Bad Listener

Good Listener

1. Tunes out others at the beginning – pre judges or “knows” where the story will end. Pessimistic.

1. Defers judgment – is alert for something new. Optimistic James 1:19

2. Criticizes speaking skill and grammar. Arrogant.

2. Hears content rather than form or style.

3. Prepares his reply before speaker finishes.

3. Completely listens until the end. Does not worry about needing to “think on your feet.” Proverbs 18:13

4. Picks up on facts only.

4. Picks up on feelings and principles.

5. Wandering eyes; slouching posture.

5. Direct eye contact and attentive body language.

6. Lazy and/or self centered.

6. Actively works at understanding the other person. Proverbs 15:28

7. Follows impulses and emotions irrationally.

7. Acknowledges emotions but does allow emotions to dictate responses. Proverbs 29:20

8. Unable to see the big picture because of carelessness.

8. Can summarize what has been said. Proverbs 15:23

9. Speaks whatever comes to mind.

9. Measures carefully his words. Thinks before he answers. Proverbs 15:28

10. Sticks his foot in his mouth.

10. Says the right thing at the right time. Proverbs 25:11

11, Can see only from his own viewpoint.

11. Willing to hear from the other person’s perspective.

12, Flies off the handle.

12, Crafts a kind response Proverbs 15:1

13. Sees no value in silence

13. Knows when to shut up

14. Loves to hear himself talk.

14. Values talking, listening, and understanding.

15. Is able to “talk over” anyone.

15. Exercises self control by not interrupting  James 1:19

16. Is a master at “tuning out”

16. Avoids selective listening.

17. Can’t fathom that you would entertain a different view.

17. Allows for a difference of opinion and respects the other person’s right to disagree. He will understand even if he disagrees. Proverbs 18:17

18. Only hears words.

18. Is alert for the actual words, the tone of voice, and non-verbal communication cues.

19. Can’s see the forest because of the trees.

19. Is able to see beyond the external distractions of the speaker (such as annoying mannerisms) as well as his/her personal bias.

Some observations regarding the Scriptures and points on the Effective Listening chart:

#1, 15 {NAU  James 1:19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger} So the good listener listens more and talks less. “Quick to hear” and “slow to speak” go together. Both are eis + infinitive = “quick for the purpose of hearing…slow for the purpose of speaking.” Scripture is  replete with such admonitions of wisdom… Prov 13:3, “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin”; 10:19,  “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise”; 29:20, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Probably a good idea to become a person of few words. 

#3  {NAU  Proverbs 18:13 He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.} This is pretty strong language. “Folly” and “shame” (כְּלִמָּה means ignominy BDB 4495) These are not desired descriptions. I’d prefer not to be known as an ignoramus fool! 

Question for #5 - At what does a good listener look? Suggested answer = the other person’s face but probably more specifically the mouth.

#6, 9 {NAU  Proverbs 15:28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.}  Note the contrast between “heart” and “mouth”. A good listener listens with more than just the ears! He/she is alert to underlying meanings and indicators of deeper issues. The heart (לֶב) is the “the inner self, the seat of feelings and impulses” (Holliday Lexicon 4001). Also note that the good listener “ponders” rather than blurts whatever comes to mind.   “Ponder” means that he/she carefully considers the matter before speaking (BDB 2260 = literally to moan or groan about something). So we might say he/she chews on it for a while. It’s probably better to say nothing than to speak badly!


#10 {NAU  Proverbs 25:11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances.} How many times have you said, “I wish I would have said…” Don’t you just envy people who say just the right thing at the right time! How can we do this? Well, I suppose it takes practice… and I suppose it takes a learned ability to think on your feet… but I also think it takes prayer (Help, Lord). I do think you can pray while you listen! 

#12  {NAU  Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.}  I’ve always wondered, is it “soft” (KJV, ESV) or “gentle” (NAU, NIV) or both? Well, I’m not sure, but some of the meanings given for the word (רָךְ rak) are tender, frail, weak, sensitive, delicate, pampered, timid, soft (Holladay 7895; BDB 9096). Uses: - of children Gen 33:13; of woman Dt 28:56; of eyes Gen 29:17; of heart Dt 20:8; of the tongue Prov 25:15. It is in contrast to “harsh” (עֶצֶב) meaning pain or hurt (Hol 6476; BDB 7299).  So, I suppose the idea might be to always remember to whom you’re speaking and chose words that are appropriate to that person’s sensitivities. On the one hand, certain speech will enflame the debate with almost everyone. On the other hand, certain speech will enflame the debate only with specific persons. So, don’t push hot buttons! Never intentionally inflict pain with your words. 

Discuss #16 - Avoids selective listening. Hearing it all but heeding only part of it. 

So, here is the question: How do we avoid falling into this trap?

#17  {NAU  Proverbs 18:17 The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him.}  There are almost always two sides to every story! Hear them both. 

Example #18 - My Mom called and said Dad wanted to talk to me. He told me he loved me and was proud of me. We hung up (I thought I had to get to church). Only then did I realize that he was saying goodbye. I called back. He died in his sleep that night. I only heard words, not the urgency and intense passion behind them. 

Discuss #19 - Okay, who wants to be bold enough to mention an annoying distraction that you have to get past in order to listen well? 

An example might be… people who pray and use the Lord’s name in “vain”

2.Employ empathic listening (see Covey 222-231)

a.There are five levels of listening according to Covey: #1 Ignoring; #2 Pretend Listening; #3 Selective Listening; #4 Attentive Listening; #5 Empathic Listening (Chart p 223). Empathic listening is the highest form of listening. Empathic listening is simply listening with empathy or trying to see things from the other person’s perspective or frame of reference. 

b.A key to becoming a good empathic listener is simply to begin to act as a translator – translate what the other person has said and communicate it back to them in verbal and non-verbal format. Covey calls this an “understanding” response rather than a judging response or an advising response, or a probing for more information response, or an interpreting response.  What he is suggesting is that we need to clarify what the other person says – make sure we understand.

c.However, Covey states that technique is not the important thing. Reflecting back or summarizing may be helpful at times but the key is to have a genuine interest in really understanding the other person. He believes this is based on respect for the other person.  If this isn’t present then techniques are nothing more than manipulation; and people can sense when they are being manipulated; and this always has a bad outcome. 

d.I would add that sometimes it is appropriate to offer advice or get more information, or bring to bear the Scripture. In fact, genuine empathic listening will discern when the other person actually wants you or needs you to probe or give advice. 

NAU  Romans 15:14 “And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.” Indeed, there is a place for admonition; it is valued.

3.When listening to another person, always be alert for non-verbal factors or verbal techniques that multiply the effectiveness of communication. Some experts estimate that successful communication is at least 55% nonverbal (More Communication Keys for Your Marriage, Wright 93).

Example of non-verbal communication. NAU  Genesis 4:5 “but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?” 

Most emotions, attitudes, or underlying feelings and thoughts are typically expressed by powerful facial expressions using the eyes, lips, nose, brow, or mouth (crying, sniffling, smiling, frowning, wrinkling the nose or forehead, sticking out the tongue, pursing the lips, or staring). To this we could add things such as 

slamming the door when leaving the house, 

stomping out of the room, 

cutting someone off on he highway, 

opening a door for someone, 

posture when seated (slouching, sitting on the edge of the chair, dozing off with chin on chest), 

arm and hand motions (flailing your arms, clapping, folding your arms at the chest, cupping your hand behind your ear, shushing with your finger, slashing your neck with your hand, or clenching your fists), 

body movements (gyrations, jumping, turning your back, hugging, or touching, shrugging shoulders), 

writing notes. 

Class demonstration of non-verbal methods of communication. Recruit class members who will express some of the following without saying anything: 1) anger, 2) worry, 3) love, 4) joy, 5) pain, 6) boredom, 7) fear, 8) excitement, 9) sadness, 10) tranquility, 11) attentiveness, 12) shock, 13) disappointment, 14) pride, 15) doubt, or 16) frustration. The rest of the class will attempt to guess what attitude or emotion is being expressed.

Bottom line: A good listener picks up on and attaches meaning to these non verbal messages. 

But a good listener also is observant of any value-added verbal communication employed by the person he/she is listening to.

How to verbally amplify communication.

Tone of voice (where were you? for anger or worry)

Voice inflection (deep or squeaky for confidence or nervousness)

Rate of delivery (fast or slow for timing or emphasis) 

Loudness (soft or booming for seriousness excitement) 

Silent pauses (for attention)

Word and phrase emphasis (for attention):

“The LORD gives and the LORD takes away” vs

“The Lord gives and the Lord TAKES away.”

Alliteration, poetry, rhymes (for memory)

Role play a two way conversation (for reality)

So, it is also true that a gifted speaker uses not only a whole array of non-verbal communication methods but also an assortment of value-added verbal communication methods.. (Illustration: A stereotypical homiletic advice to preachers is often humorously cited - Note in margin of sermon manuscript: Weak point. Pound pulpit.) 

4.Implement the Ten Commandments of Listening 

Discuss (Created from Caring Enough to Hear, David Augsburger p 46 as cited in More Keys to Effective Communcation, Wright p 100). (See handout below.)

Ten Commandments of Listening 

1.On passing judgment. Thou shalt neither judge nor evaluate until thou hast truly understood. “Hold it right there, I’ve heard enough to know where you stand and you’re all wet.”

2.On adding insights. Thou shalt not attribute ideas or contribute insight to those stated. “If you mean this, it will lead to there, and then you must also mean that.” 

3.On assuming agreement. Thou shalt not assume that what you heard is what was truly said or what was really meant. “I know what you meant, no matter what you say now. I heard you with my own ears.” 

4.On drifting attention. Thou shalt not permit thy thoughts to stray or thy attention to wander. “When you said that, it triggered an interesting idea that I like better than yours.” 

5.On closing the mind. Thou shalt not close thy mind to opposing thoughts, thy ears to opposite truths, thy eyes to other views. “After you used that sexist language I didn’t hear another thing you said.”


6.On wishful hearing. Thou shalt not permit thy heart to rule thy mind, nor thy mind thy heart.  “I just knew you were going to say that, I had it figured all along.”

7.On multiple meanings. Thou shalt not interpret words except as they are interpreted by the speaker. “If I were to stop breathing, would I or would I not expire?”  {maybe not - words do have meanings independent of you}

8.On rehearsing responses. Thou shalt not use the other’s time to prepare responses of your own. “I can’t wait until you need a breath! Have I got a comeback for you.’ 

9.On fearing challenge. Thou shalt not fear correction, improvement or change. “I’m talking faster and snowing you because I don’t want to hear what you’ve got to say.”

10.On evading equality. Thou shalt not over-demand time or fail to claim your own time to hear and be heard. “I want equal time. I want you to feel equally heard.”

Caring Enough to Hear, David Augsburger p 46 

as cited in More Keys to Effective Communication, Norman Wright p 100)

At home application (How to get the most benefit from this class):

Refer to the Good Listener column of the “Good Listening Chart”. Each spouse should privately rate both herself/himself and her/his spouse in each of the 19 statements.  Ratings scale: Most of the time = 4;  About 50/50 = 3; Some of the time = 2; Almost never = 1.

Then, both spouses compare ratings and discuss, especially those traits rated as 2 or 1 and traits where there is a rating difference between spouses of more than 1.   

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