When I began marriage counseling with Marriage Revolution a few years ago, I knew I had to quickly assemble the best communication skills available, because poor communication is by far the most common issue among struggling couples today.

So I quickly gathered the top communication skills, a total of twelve worthy practices. These tips and techniques were made up of 4 Communication Patterns, 7 Conflict Tips, and the decades-old Speaker-Listener Technique. And I found that the couples who put these communication skills in to practice dramatically improved their relationship.

Yet there was a large segment of my clients who, though they understood the 12 communication skills and how to use them, and though they agreed with their appropriateness and sensibility, still would not bring themselves to use them consistently. Something was sidetracking the couples before they ever began using the Terrific Twelve, or, even if things began well, that certain something was derailing their continued application of the Deserving Dozen. That is when I developed the 4 Ts.

Now understand, the 4 Ts have no direct bearing on the content of what is communicated. However, they do dramatically impact the environment of the discussion and the mood of the interaction, which has a profound impact on the success of the exchange. And to boot, these communication skills are totally within the control of the individual. So here they are, the 4 Ts:

Timing

Timing should be considered before you ever approach someone about a problem or disagreement. Is this good timing? Does he have margin or space for this encounter?  Is she busy doing other things that will distract her? Is he emotionally ready? Is she tired? Are you emotionally ready or tired? Is it late at night? The best timing usually occurs during times of non-conflict.

Temperature

When conversation is hot, calm and kind it is not. Keep the “temperature” of the discussion “low.” That will go a long way toward maintaining civility and a “friendly” state. Keep things calm and level-headed. If things begin to heat up, call a timeout to cool down. But be sure to designate a time to reconvene, whether it’s fifteen minutes or several hours. That way the issue gets addressed.

Tempo

Quickly spoken words elevate the intensity. An intense atmosphere promotes short fuses and hot temperatures. The pulse or cadence should be kept slow and measured so that tempers remain cool.

Tone

The nature of your approach should be low-key and gentle, self-controlled and patient. Remember, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. If you use a kind tone, the other person is much less likely to get defensive. If you approach with concern but not combativeness, you will probably have a listening ear. If you are churlish or childish, the temperature will rise, the intensity will escalate, the tempo will increase, and the likelihood of your conversation being a success will plummet.

Summary

  • Choose an appropriate Time to begin the discussion.
  • Keep the Temperature of the conversation low.
  • Maintain a slow Tempo of speech.
  • Use a kind, patient Tone.

Please don’t ignore these communication skills! 

Everyone wants a happy, healthy marriage, and practicing good communication skills is a big part of achieving that. Using the 4 Ts along with the other 12 solid communication skills will go a long way toward achieving healthy and respectful communication in your marriage.