Blog posts that provide encouragement for marriage and family success.

3 Nonverbal Communication Tips for Marriage - Dr. Andrea Towers Scott

Last night I was on a zoom Bible study - phone propped on the spoon rest; headset in my ears - while I cooked dinner, monitored my son's time in the shower, fed the dogs/let them out, all while trying to remember if I got everything done for work before we were ready for dinner.

My sweet husband came in and asked questions about the upcoming weekend. I was admittedly a bit short with him - my answer was brief, my tone was clipped, I didn't look up at him, and I kept my back to him. He grunted a bit, then quickly left the room. I realized instantly that he was upset with me, but it wasn't a great time to go tackle it. So I let it go while I finished up all the other tasks. We eventually reconnected and made weekend plans.

But this scenario is all too common at our home - and yours, I suspect. One of you is busy, the other is trying to gather information, and a misunderstanding ensues. Generally, that misunderstanding happens because both parties could have made better communication choices. In this example, my husband could have surveyed the scene and realized I had my hands full, then tabled his questions until dinner time. For me, I could have turned down the stove, muted the study, and turned to give him the attention he deserves.

Nonverbal communication makes up the bulk of communication, particularly at home. No matter what words we say, there's a lot more said with our eyes, gestures, facial expressions, and overall body language.

Students take entire courses to learn how to use nonverbal communication well, but I'm going to give three tips for marriages today. I'll address parenting, siblings, friends, and work relationships in the coming weeks.

  1. Put it down and look at the person. I know we hear this all the time, but there's a reason for that. Distraction breeds conflict. Once upon a time, phones meant someone was talking to someone else. (Remember that??) Today, though, with our phones basically serving as handheld computers, people can be doing anything from work to a Candy Crush game to scrolling Facebook. Since we don't know what someone else is doing, it's best to ask if they have a second. Get their attention and let them know you want to talk. On the flip side, if someone asks you to talk, put it down. If you really can't take a break from the phone, ask them to come back in a few minutes, or ask if you can find the person when you're done with whatever it is you're working on. But be clear that you DO want to talk to the person. Our spouse should almost always be the most important person we communicate with. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:4, NLT "Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too." So put it down!

  2. Touch each other. Hold hands. Kiss. Put your arm around her. Hold his arm. My husband would add a little tush tap should be on this list, too! 😀 Not all touch has to be sexual in marriage. But touch communicates love and connection. Jesus touched lots of people - many were people no one else would even approach! His touch brought healing and love. And it can do the same for your marriage. When you sit down to watch tv this weekend, reach out and touch your spouse. You'll be glad you did!

  3. Watch your tone. I'll admit this one is incredibly difficult. When we are distracted by worry, stress, and ongoing crises, it's challenging to even remember to watch our tone of voice, much less actually control it. Sometimes we just need to take a deep breath, refocus our thoughts on our spouse, and speak with love. I can tell you from first-hand experience that Proverbs 15:1 is TRUE: "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." When my tone is harsh, my husband gets upset. And likewise with me. When he's distracted and his tone is harsh, I get angry. Even if his words were NOT harsh. Tone of voice communicates more than any words do.

So there you have it. Three easy nonverbal tips for you to work on in your marriage this weekend. None of them take a lot of time, and you don't have to make a big announcement about them. Just begin making some changes and see how your spouse responds.

Blessings to your marriage 💝,


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