Hopefully, by now, you have taken some time to think about your calling and life goals as well as your personality and marital expectations. Self-discovery is a process, so you won’t be an expert immediately. But as long as you are taking steps in the right direction, I applaud you! As a former psychology major, and the girl that analyzed every song written between 1995 and 2002 (okay, maybe not quite every song) in an attempt to discover what the authors were feeling (something that used to drive a former co-worker crazy), I find self-discovery and personality analysis oodles of fun.
Call me a nerd; I don’t mind. I am fascinated with how people become who they are. I could talk about the nature verses nurture argument all night long. Though I’m not what you would call a voracious reader, I could spend hours drinking in information about personality types and how different personalities interact. Birth order? Love it! I’m the quintessential psychology nerd.
So, if you are not finding your path to self-discovery quite as exciting as I’m making it sound, never fear. You’re normal. It may not be as fun of a journey for you as it will be for someone else – and that’s okay. Focus on the benefit knowing yourself will have on your future marriage. If you don’t know who you are when you are choosing a mate, you can’t know what you need in a mate. If you don’t know where you’re heading, you won’t know with whom you should be traveling. And, of course, the more you know about yourself going into marriage, the fewer surprises you will have later.
Surprise! She likes to talk for thirty minutes without taking a breath as soon as she walks in the door from work. Surprise! He doesn’t like to talk (or listen) for at least thirty minutes after he gets home from work. There’s more good news… they get home from work at the same time! How lovely! Do you see potential for some relational thunderstorms here?
Communication styles are defined in varying ways. You can take quizzes to discover your specific, researched, and documented communication styles (e.g., aggressive vs. passive aggressive communication styles), or you can simply notice how you tend to communicate with people. Do you speak loudly when you are making a point? Do you make statements in the form of questions? Do you have a hard time speaking up when you need to communicate something negative? Do you let your body language do most of your talking?
You will spend a lot of time communicating with your future spouse. Whether you talk a lot or a little, you will communicate with your future spouse on a daily basis. Do you communicate disgust with an icy stare? Do you slam doors, ovens, cabinets, or throw objects to communicate anger? Do you let your lack of words speak volumes? Are you a man of few words? Are you a babbler?
When I’m tired, uncomfortable, or extremely comfortable with someone, I babble. I’ve become increasingly aware of this tendency and I try to stop myself before I make someone listen to too much unnecessary information. Eric is a straight shooter. He doesn’t believe in wasting too much time beating around the bush. If there’s a bush in his way, he’ll cut it down and get to the point.
How do you communicate with others? Start to take notice of your tendencies. We all have communication habits that aren’t the best (e.g., withdrawing when conversations get uncomfortable, taking over conversations, looking at our watches while others are talking, etc.) and when we are aware of our weaknesses, we can work on them!
If you know you struggle to listen, you can be up front with your dates. “Sometimes my mind has a tendency to wander when others are talking to me. Please don’t be hurt if I get a far off look in my eye. Feel free to tap me! I’ve been working on it, but I still have a long way to go!” If a man told me this on a date, I think I’d appreciate it. Instead of me thinking my conversation wasn’t interesting, I would know that he has a weakness in this communication area. I think I could overlook a weakness he was working on, but I’d have a harder time wanting to go out with a man who appeared to be bored with me!
Truth be told, I’m not a fan of conflict. If it were up to me, we’d all get along and conflict would never rear its ugly head. Though I know conflict is good for relationships (i.e., it promotes growth and can strengthen couples’ abilities to communicate effectively), I simply don’t enjoy them. In some cases, conflict stresses me out. In other cases, conflict simply exhausts me emotionally.
It’s no big surprise to me that I flee from conflict. Early in our marriage, I dealt with uncomfortable conflict by retreating to the back of the house. I just wanted to be away from the discomfort. Eric, on the other hand, is a fighter. He wants to attack the problem, resolve it, and move on with life. Unfortunately, his fighter conflict style, paired with his tremendous vocabulary, can cause conflicts to become worse if he’s not on his toes.
How do you fight? Do you ignore problems and put off necessary conflicts? Do you fight through conflicts, determined to make the other person (or people) see and agree with your point of view? Do you find a secret exhilaration from conflict? Does it make you feel alive? Are you terrified of conflict? Does it frighten you to the point that you’ll do anything to stop it from continuing, including apologizing when you’re not sorry or agreeing with something you don’t believe?
It will be a blessing to you and your future spouse if you know your conflict style. If you’re a fighter, it will be good for any future boyfriends or girlfriends to know this about you before your first fight. ~smile~ If you flee from conflict, you should let future boyfriends or girlfriends know so they won’t think you are showing disrespect when you leave the room during an argument.
Once you know your conflict style, you can work on strengthening it. If you know you’re a fighter, you can list rules for conflicts (e.g., “I will never use derogatory names with others”, etc.). If you know you flee from conflict, you can begin communicating when you need space (e.g. “I’m getting overwhelmed. I need ten minutes to myself and then I’ll come back.”). Understanding that people fight in various ways will help you learn to communicate better during arguments and can help you show grace to those who have different conflict styles than your own.
Natural Communication and No Conflict
The ideal situation would include two people magically communicating with no struggles at all. Some people claim to have natural communication and no conflicts, but I don’t believe them. ~smile~ As long as we’re all sinful, imperfect creatures, we’re not going to communicate perfectly and we’re certainly not always going to handle conflict like champs 100% of the time!
The more you know about your communication and conflicts styles, the more prepared you can be for communication breakdowns and arguments. You won’t be free of problems in these areas simply because you’re self-aware, but you can prepare for them!
We hope you’re not overwhelmed! In the past week we’ve talked about callings, life goals, personality types, expectations, communication styles, and conflict styles. It sounds like you have a lot to learn about yourself, but some of these concepts overlap.
As you learn your calling, goals may emerge. While you are writing down your goals, you may uncover some expectations. As you learn about your personality tendencies, you may realize more about your communication and conflict styles. Continue to be open to learning. Accept your positive points and don’t be discouraged by the areas that need growth. Just think of how far ahead of the dating game you’ll be once you deeply know yourself and where you’re heading! Happy exploring!
How do you tend to communicate with others? Are you comfortable with how you currently handle conflicts?