Have you ever come home from a long day at work? You’re weary; a light mist is falling, and your stomach reminds you that you didn’t take time for lunch. You walk to the door of your home, insert the key, and it doesn’t turn. What! You look at the key again. It certainly looks like the right one. You try a second time as the mist turns into a pouring rain, but the key won’t work.

On another occasion, you come home from a long day at work. You’re weary; there is a mist falling, and your stomach is aching. You get to the door of your home and insert the key. This time it opens. You begin to relax as you walk through the door. The mist has turned into a pouring rain, but this time you are looking at it from inside the warmth of your home.

A key is a little object, having the right one can make all the difference!

My husband, Drew, and I have found that good communication is essential to our relationship. Poor communication can keep you on the outside looking in, and good communication can bring you inside to enjoy the warmth of your relationship.

We have learned that one of the keys to good communication—one that has the potential to unlock new areas of understanding between you and your spouse—is speaking each other’s language.

The language of pictures

Like most areas of our lives, Drew and I approach communication from different perspectives. For example, when I return from a day of shopping, I want to tell Drew all about it. I want to tell him about the three-day sale at my favorite department store that I didn’t even know about. I want to tell him about the bargain rack I found in another store. I want to show him the things I have purchased, and I want the man to be excited!

Unfortunately his usual response is, “That’s nice, Honey,” as he glances up from the newspaper. He doesn’t seem to share the joy of my shopping trips. But being a determined communicator, I must tell him about my day in a language he will understand. We do this by creating a picture with our words that communicate deeper emotions.

Shopping definitely creates an emotion in me, but now I need to draw a picture with my words that creates the same emotion in him. For Drew that is fishing. He loves to fish. When he returns from a day of fishing he wants to tell me all about it—what part of the lake he fished in and how he just knew the big one was down there. He wants to explain all the different types of bait that he used to “out fox” the fish. And of course, he wants me to be excited about the fish he brought home.

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They are two different activities—shopping and fishing—and yet they create the same emotion. Drew feels about fishing the same way I feel about shopping. So now when I come home from a day of shopping and have something new to wear, I just hold it up to myself and say, “Drew, bringing home this dress feels like catching a bass!” Excitement communicated.

Creating these word pictures is often the key to unlocking emotions with one another that we have never tapped before. Because we have developed a pattern of communicating in each other’s language on a daily basis, we’ve learned to really listen to one another, to step into what each other is feeling, to truly experience the emotion that is being communicated. Now, when a crisis situation arises, we automatically communicate on this level.

A vivid example

I remember a day when I had just returned from the hospital. The first of my two surgeries for breast cancer was completed. Not being a timid person in the past, I found myself afraid. I was afraid that my stitches would pull out, afraid that I would lie wrong in bed, afraid to take a shower. I was afraid of everything. It was then that Drew created a picture with his words that helped me realize what I was feeling.

He said, “Kit, you are like a soldier that has gone into battle. Before the surgery you were ready to fight, to do anything to win the day, nothing could stop you. But now you’ve been shot and with that bullet came the knowledge that you are not invincible; you can be stopped. The realities of war are all too clear. You also know you will be going into battle again. This time with a much clearer picture of what can happen to you. You feel vulnerable and afraid.”

I couldn’t believe it. Drew had created a picture with his words that communicated exactly what I was feeling. He had communicated with me on a level that ministered to my heart in the most profound way. That picture unlocked many of my fears and helped me bring them out into the open so I could deal with them.

I often hear couples say to one another, “You’ll just never understand.” Sometimes that is true because of our gender differences, but I think it is more likely because we haven’t tried hard enough to communicate. We’ve become lazy in our communication skills. We give up too easily.

Learning how to draw pictures with our words and speaking the other person’s language takes effort on the communicator’s part. Still, the rewards are worth it. They have the potential to not only unlock our deepest emotions, but also areas of understanding that have been locked in the past.

A key is a little thing, but what a difference it makes.

Copyright © 2007 by Kit Coons. All rights reserved. Used with permission.