Communication in Marriage: Word Pictures
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” the saying goes. So it makes sense that word pictures can help you communicate more effectively with your husband. In their book, The Language of Love, Dr. Gary Smalley and Dr. John Trent describe the communication style called “word pictures.”
An “emotional word picture” is defined as “a communication tool that uses a story or object to activate simultaneously the emotions and intellect of a person. In so doing, it causes the person to experience our words, not just hear them.”
In simpler language, a word picture can help your husband better understand what you’re trying to say.
Why Word Pictures Work
1. Word Pictures Grab and Direct Attention.
Studies have shown that word pictures encourage the brain to work faster and expend more energy than when we listen to regular words. Word pictures force your husband to get past the words and focus on the meaning behind the story.
Here’s an example. Imagine that you’re trying to let your husband know that you feel like he doesn’t really listen to you when you’re talking because he doesn’t stop what he’s doing – working on the computer, watching TV or reading a magazine.
Here’s how a word picture could help you share your feelings.
Wife: Honey, could I talk with you a minute. Remember when you were little, how you said your teachers never paid much attention to you because you were small and had a quiet voice? Remember how you said you felt overlooked because they gave the other kids more attention? Well, that’s kind of how I feel when I try to talk to you, sometimes. When you don’t give me your full attention, I feel like you used to when you were the small, quiet kid.
2. Word Pictures Bring Communication to Life.
Word pictures “activate a person’s emotions, which can lead to positive change.”
3. Word Pictures Lock Thoughts into Our Memory.
Studies have shown that people remember things better when a word picture is used.
4. Word Pictures Provide a Gateway to Intimacy.
Using word pictures provides a common ground of communication that both you and your husband can use.
Look at this example from Dr. Smalley:
“Your love is to me what going to McDonald’s is to the kids — especially when they get to order all the chocolate shakes and French fries they can eat!”
Seven Steps to Creating a Word Picture
1. Establish a Clear Purpose.
Have clear in your mind what message you want to convey when creating your word picture. Do you want to clarify feelings, move to a deeper level of intimacy, encourage your husband, or lovingly correct him?
2. Carefully Study the Other Person’s Interests.
Know what interests your husband so that you can use an illustration that will best capture his attention.
3. Draw from Four Inexhaustible Wells.
If you are concerned about not being creative enough to form your own word picture, Smalley and Trent suggest four sources of inspiration: nature, everyday objects, imaginary stories and your own experiences.
4. Rehearse Your Story.
While it’s not practical to write down or practice every word picture you use, but Smalley and Trent do recommend thinking through your stories before using them.
5. Pick a Convenient Time without Distractions.
Choose a time to share your word picture with your husband when there aren’t distractions or time constraints. Know your spouse and when he will be most likely to be attentive to you.
6. Try and Try Again.
Smalley and Trent encourage readers to continue this communication method, even if it is not as effective as hoped the first time used.
7. Milk Your Word Picture for All It’s Worth!
Use a basic word picture to bring several levels of feelings to the surface.
So, use word pictures to reach your husband on a deeper emotional level. If you choose your words, and your word picture, wisely, you could see great results. (You can also look for the iMOM article on using word pictures with your kids.)
This article is based on the book, The Language of Love, by Dr. Gary Smalley and Dr. John Trent.
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