I run into this WAY too often in working with couples. It’s like each person is excellent at communicating at work or with friends or other relationships, but their spouse gets defensive and intentional conversations go nowhere. And sometimes quickly, the attitudes can spiral out of control into rage or silence.
Bea and I were given a wonderful tool several years ago by a professor at Trevecca Nazarene University as we attended a Music Directors & Spouses retreat in Nashville. This reflective listening tool has become an important part of our communication, especially when one of us doesn’t feel like we’re being “heard”.
This tool we call MCI (remember the old long-distance phone provider?).
Step #1: MIRROR
Step #2: CONFIRM
Step #3: INVESTIGATE
Here’s how it works.
First, set an appointment to have an intentional conversation. Don’t try to do this “on the fly” amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Remove distractions. No TV, no kids, no internet devices, no other people–just the two of you.
Sit comfortably facing each other. Not in the car or on the couch (facing forward), but facing each other. Utilize all of the “body language” communication. A quiet restaurant can be acceptable, but this doesn’t need to require a meal. In fact the meal itself can be a distraction.
One spouse goes first with “There is an issue that I’d like to discuss”. This person then presents the issue without interruption. Feel free to put a time limit if necessary or be sure to limit this to only ONE issue, it’s not a chance to pile on an entire barrage of stuff.
Spouse #2 then MIRROR precisely what spouse #1 said. Simply reflect back EXACTLY what spouse #1 said. Don’t embellish, enhance, color, explain, defend, or anything, simply MIRROR exactly what your spouse said. This may be very tough especially at the beginning as you get used to using this tool, but it’s very important to simply MIRROR exactly what your spouse said. Something like, “What I heard you say is… “
Spouse #2 then CONFIRM by asking, “Is that what you said?”. Spouse #1 may counter and correct, clarify, restate, or start over, but Spouse #2 is simply to MIRROR exactly what Spouse #1 said. Repeat MIRROR & CONFIRM as many times as is necessary for Spouse #2 to be able to repeat back EXACTLY what Spouse #1 has said without embellishment or defense.
Spouse #2 then INVESTIGATE by asking “Is there more?”. Spouse may say, “no, that’s all”, but USUALLY there’s more. This will lead to another issue likely connected to issue #1. But if a 2nd issue arises, repeat MIRROR, CONFIRM, INVESTIGATE with this new issue.
The purpose here is good, healthy communication, not to necessarily fix issues. Once you and your spouse feel genuinely “heard” and “listened to”, it’s amazing how the problem-solving and healing begins to kick in.
Please give this a try and let me know how it goes.
On the Marriage Matters USA Blog, we talk about all things marriage. I’ll definitely explore helpful and fun ideas to strengthen your marriage. As we explore these things, let me ask you to do a few things:
- Give me your feedback. Is this idea helpful? Are there other ways you’ve seen this principle or idea at work in your life? Do you have suggestions for topics? Feel free to email me and let me know what your struggling with—or what you see couples struggling with—the most in your circles at home, at schools, at your church and in the community.
- Donate to Marriage Matters USA. We have expenses we wish to cover and some exciting things we’re hoping to release to help strengthen your marriage and lead your church to do this same. But we can’t do it without your help. Visit here to learn more and give.
- Share this post. Sharing posts like this helps our ministry reach more folks who need our help. Please consider sharing this post with your friends by email and on your social media accounts.
At Marriage Matters USA, Our goal here is to build God-honoring marriages that go the distance. I’d love to hear from you. You can connect here to get started. As we learn how to serve you, your marriage and build churches that champion strong marriages, ask me how to build a solid marriage ministry for your local church and community? I’m always delighted to help you and talk about how we can make marriages stronger at home, at church and in your community.
This post is from David Sheets. David is founder of Marriage Matters USA. David has been married to Bea for 41 years and they have 2 children and 6 grandchildren. He has served in church ministry for 41+ years in music, worship and marriage ministry. David is a certified facilitator of Prepare|Enrich and SYMBIS (Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts) assessments. After leading a thriving marriage ministry at McLean Bible Church in Washington DC, David and the board of directors developed a strategy to make this powerful, agile ministry available to church planters, churches and other target groups. Email David here.