I am continually being reminded of the challenges of communication within my marriage. One of those challenges is the 1-inch deep style of communication that so easily takes over a marital relationship. This is shallow communication and it seems to be a constant challenge for us.
It occurs when we constantly fill our conversation with routine topics.
The crazy thing is that these types of discussions seem to dominate the conversations between many couples.
Here are some common examples:
- Who is taking Suzy to practice tomorrow?
- Will you get groceries on the way home?
- Do you think we should get the dog groomed this weekend?
- What will kill the crabgrass in the side yard?
- Do you think we should reset the sprinkler to start at 2am?
- Can we clean out the garage this weekend?
- When are we going to see your parents?
- What are we going to do about the tail light?
These shallow conversations are part of life, but if they are the only conversations couples tend to have, then that can be dangerous for the relationship. Why?
Transactional conversations can quickly become uninspiring.
Because they are mostly informational, directive or transactional. They communicate information but don’t connect us.
After a while our brain assumes that the next conversation with our spouse will be more of the same. We then feel disinterested in talking that much with our spouse and we turn away to the phone or TV or computer.
The conversation that should be the highlight of our day is now routine and we aren’t growing closer.
I can think of lots of conversation types we might have as couples.
There is the informational conversation where we tell our spouse something they need to know.
Then there is the transactional conversation where we negotiate with our spouse about doing something.
There is the directive conversation where we try to force them to do something.
Or the emotional conversation where we express our real frustrations.
So how can we break out of the boring, shallow conversations and avoid the pitfalls of isolation? How do we have more conversations that don’t feel shallow and even better, increase our intimacy?
My recommendation is to fire up the IQ in our relationship.
What’s that? IQ stands for “Intentional Questions“.
An Intentional Question is when we ask our spouse, a deliberate and meaningful question to understand more about them. We aren’t seeking to get their agreement, direct their actions, express our emotions or inform them of something. We are asking an intentional question to help our spouse reveal something about them and then use the opportunity to more deeply connect.
Intentional Questions lead to interesting responses, unexpected insight and expand our relationship. Intentional Questions have several unique characteristics.
Intentional Questions help us learn something new about our spouse.
Intentional Questions are open-ended and cannot be answered YES or NO.
Intentional Questions often require some time and thought to answer.
Intentional Questions draw us toward each other.
Intentional Questions deepen our understanding/appreciation for each other.
Intentional Questions mostly start with Who, What, When, and How.
IQ were once a major part of your conversations. When you first met you were curious about each other. You asked lots of questions because this new person fascinated you! But over time that changed.
Slowly everyday life dominated your conversations and you assumed you knew everything about your spouse. That assumption led you to ask fewer questions. Now you can fire up IQ and see what’s new with your spouse. After all, we are always changing as individuals and IQ will help you discover where.
But there is one more thing you need to do after you ask the IQ.
You need to have a good follow-up question. Great follow-up questions open the door wider to meaningful conversations.
A typical follow-up question might be, “How do you feel about that?” or “Why was that important to you?” or “What would you think was best to do about that?”
The follow-up question expands on the IQ, doesn’t criticize or condemn and allows your spouse to reveal more about their thoughts, interests, memories and feelings. Here are good examples of Intentional Questions.
What did you learn about yourself today? Where did you see God working? What was your high point/ low point today? If you could change one thing in yourself, what would it be? What one thing would make your job more satisfying? Who would you consider your closest friend at work? Who can you most trust in your extended family?
It’s a great idea to fire up the IQ in your relationship.
Come up with one good open-ended question. Discuss it. Add a follow-up question. Dig deeper. Find out more about your spouse’s feelings and opinions. Understand why they have those feelings. Respond to them in a way they feel safe to reveal more of themselves to you. Take turns. Add coffee (or a Frappuccino). Repeat.
If you ask 2-5 IQ’s a week, I’m betting you will improve the richness of your conversations and get some surprising answers from your spouse. So join me by increasing IQ’s in your marriage!
Looking for some ideas? Check out the QUESTIONS-4-US page on our website. We have dozens of questions there. Oncethere, scroll right or left until you find one you like.
Let me know how you use IQ’s and what you feel are the best ones you have asked your spouse!
Though good advice lies deep within the heart, a person with understanding will draw it out. Proverbs 20:5
- How would you rate the quantity of meaningful conversations you two have?
- Are you stuck in a conversational rut right now?
- What other ways besides using IQ, could you improve your conversations?
- It’s not that I’m so smart, but I stay with the questions much longer.
- Whoever questions much, shall learn much and retain much.
- The word question is derived from the Latin quarrier (to seek) which is the same root as the word for quest. A creative life is a continued quest, and good questions can be very useful guides. Most useful are open-ended questions; they allow for fresh unanticipated answers to reveal themselves.