How to communicate in a way that truly connects

 Nikki Bray

How to communicate in a way that truly connects

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved to write, to listen to stories and to capture them on paper. I lived a lot in my head, as I imagined the lives of fictitious characters and got caught up in their adventures and emotions. Because of that I thought that I’d naturally be good at communication in marriage. How wrong I was!

The listening part came easy but expressing myself was much harder and that surprised me. In the early years of our marriage Andy and I would often misunderstand each other. At times we were tempted to just give up trying to go deeper. We could have happily existed as ‘good friends’. We enjoyed the same hobbies, neither of us liked conflict and we were both positive people who often looked for the good in any situation. It would have been easy to just ‘settle’. But we wanted more. We wanted to deeply connect.

We wanted to truly know and be known by one another.

Isn’t that what real communication is all about?

The power of good questions

Communication is often considered the lifeblood of a relationship, and yet many couples struggle with authentic communication. Communication that is meaningful and authentic requires vulnerability, trust, curiosity and understanding. It’s not easy. However those who are committed to mastering it will tell you it’s worth it. Many of us don’t realise that good conversations start with asking good questions. Good questions make people think, and when people think it brings clarity, creativity and possibility.

Small talk that isn’t so small

Because we knew the value of meaningful communication, Andy and I released a resource at FamilyLife a few years ago called Small Talk. Small Talk is all about connecting families and couples for greater understanding and appreciation of one another. There are five colour-coded sets of cards each designed with a different purpose:

Table Topics has 25 cards to encourage family discussions around characteristics and values. The key here is being interested in what your child shares, not in being a preacher and making statements.

Question Cards has 63 cards, divided into pre-school, primary and teenager sections. These cards can help you to take an interest in who your child is, allowing them to feel known and loved.

Love Bites has 50 cards to help build your child’s identity. They are designed to go into your child’s lunch box (as a daily encouragement). Your primary aged kids will love these.

Date Night Questions has 50 cards to encourage couples to interact by being interested in, curious about, and intrigued with each other.

For the Bedroom cards are the questions you’ve always wanted to ask but maybe didn’t know how to.

Table Topics and the kids Question Cards were created because families constantly told us how they desperately wanted to connect with their kids but didn’t know how to make it happen. We found ourselves struggling too. We tried doing family devotions from books but our kids didn’t want to listen; they were debaters and wanted to discuss and thrash real life issues around.

They wanted interaction not indoctrination.

So, we wrote our own. These are questions that we have asked our own kids over the years. They have been extremely beneficial in creating healthy discussions, and helping them work out their own values and beliefs. And we’ve learnt a great deal about them and how they view life!

Words of belief

When our children were just starting school, we wanted to send them little messages of affirmation and belief throughout the day, so we designed the Love Bites cards. These were then laminated so that we could put them in their lunch boxes.  They so loved seeing them appear between their sandwiches and fruit, that they asked if their friends could have a card too. Our eldest daughter Natasha was even inspired to produce her own set of cards which she gave to Andy and I to encourage us, called Love Bites for Parents. Precious!

Questions that build connection

In the early years of our marriage, when Andy and I would have our weekly date night, we’d often grab our copy of The Questions Book written by Dennis and Barbara Rainey as we raced out the door.  We loved where just one of those questions would take us as we got to know each other at a deeper level.  The Questions Book has been out of print for some time now, so we re-worded those original questions and created a set of Date Night Questions for couples.

Questions that build intimacy

And finally, the For the Bedroom cards. Intimacy is one of the most common issues of conflict. We found that the conversations we needed to have were sometimes extremely difficult, but incredibly rewarding. We wanted to make it easy for couples to know how and what to ask – somehow when you’re asking a question from a card it’s a whole lot easier to ask!

Andy and I spent many hours and had a lot of fun creating these card sets. My hope is that our Small Talk resources will help your family get connected on a deeper level and with greater understanding.

We are releasing some of these questions weekly on our FamilyLife NZ FaceBook page – Table Topic Tuesdays for families, and Focus Fridays as date nights for couples.

As you embark on this journey of learning more about the people living in your bubble I would encourage you to remember to be curious, not judgmental; ask more questions and make less statements.

Do this and you will truly connect. You will continue to know, and be known by one another.