Communication: The Language of
Smalley Relationship Center
One emotional word picture is worth a thousand words.
-- Gary Smalley
Do you ever find yourself trying to express something important and your mate, friend, or boss didn't seem to get it? Or, have you ever said something from your soul, only to have it fall on deaf ears? It's almost like you're speaking a different language! In roughly 80% of all homes, men primarily relate to their wives using what we call a language of the head while women tend to speak a language of the heart. Typically, men tend to be logical, factual, and detail-oriented. On the other hand, women love to share thoughts, feelings, goals, and dreams. As a result of these two differences, many women fail to keep in mind that their husbands genuinely may not see or understand the concerns that they're sharing. In many cases, they simply don't speak the same language!
Getting angry and frustrated with a man to "motivate" him to a deeper level of understanding rarely works. Instead, why don't we employ the most powerful communication tool we know of in the Scriptures to help our mate to deeply understand what we are feeling or needing. We call this tool: Emotional Word Pictures. Without exaggeration, we've seen word pictures turn 40-watt communication into a laser beam of words that hit both the head and heart at the same time. The power of word pictures is that they bridge the gap between intellect (man's natural strength) and emotion (woman's natural strength).
Specifically, an emotional word picture is a communication device, like a lever, that engages and stimulates a person's emotions and intellect simultaneously. In activating both senses at the same time, the emotional word picture causes us to both hear and experience another's words.
Word pictures, no doubt, are a powerful way to take our words right to other people's hearts. But also, word pictures can help others to INSTANTLY understand you. Let us illustrate this instantaneous understanding. If I wanted to express how much I valued someone, I could say, "I really think that you're great!" That's not bad but it really doesn't convey how valuable that person is. But, what if I said, "You are so valuable to me—you remind me of the world's largest diamond." Doesn't the second statement convey a deeper sense of value? Now that person can see (picture in her mind) exactly how much she means to me. Furthermore, what if I wanted to express how insane someone is acting. Instead of saying, "You're weird," I could say, "You're one taco shy of a combination plate!" Or what if I had a headache. Doesn't saying, "My head is splitting!" or "My head is killing me!" convey a much more powerful image than just "My head hurts?" The point is that these three word pictures convey a specific image and meaning! This is why we say, "One picture is worth a thousand words!"
Seven Steps to Creating Word Pictures
1. Establish A CLEAR PURPOSE. The main issue here to decide if your goal is to: clarify thoughts and feelings; move into a deeper level of intimacy; praise and encourage someone; or lovingly correct. The reason why establishing a clear purpose is necessary is because it will dictate the type of word picture you need to create.
2. Carefully Study The Other Person's INTERESTS. This is a very crucial step. Unless you create a word picture around the person's interests, he will not connect or bond with your words. In other words, your word picture will have no impact. For instance, if my wife was to utilize a word picture to lovingly correct my messy behavior, she must determine an interest of mine. Since I love to fish, she could create the picture around fishing. But if she used flowers or cooking, because I'm not really interested in those things it would be difficult to get emotionally connected to her story. So, if you want to have the greatest impact, determine the person's interests. This can be done by thinking about the person's job, hobbies, favorite foods, books, movies, TV show, song, or a favorite activity to name a few.
3. Draw From FOUR INEXHAUSTIBLE WELLS. Once you've determined the goal and the person's interests, then you can utilize four specific "wells" to draw from in order to create the word picture. The four wells are:
a. Nature & its wonder (e.g., flowers, trees, clouds, rivers)
b. Everyday objects (e.g., cars, diamonds, computers)
c. Imaginary stories (e.g., anything that you make-up)
d. Past experiences & remembrances. In our opinion this is the most powerful well because the person has already felt the emotions of a past experience. All you need to do is tap into those old emotions to reap the benefits.
4. Rehearse Your Story. Remember, "Practice makes perfect." If you put in the time and effort to make the word picture meaningful, then there is no limit to its effectiveness.
5. Pick A Convenient Time Without Distractions. The worst thing that can happen is to share your meaningful word picture at inappropriate times. For example, right before you walk out the door, when someone is already late for an appointment, when the kids are present, or late at night. These times will take away from the effectiveness of your words. So, choose a time that will allow the least amount of distractions.
6. Remain Persistent. The old adage that says, "If you fail, try and try again," is very helpful when trying to convey your deep feelings or needs through a word picture. Sometimes the person will not understand its meaning or something will happen which takes away from its effectiveness. If this happens, do not simply give up. Instead, choose another well, time, place, or delivery.
7. Milk Your Word Picture For All Its Worth. Once you've gotten one light turned on with your word picture, flip on every switch in the house. This means to take advantage of the word picture by asking further questions, adding helpful details at a later time, or by using the word picture again when needed. We have found that one word picture can be used for the rest of your life.
Time and again, we've seen frustrated, tense relationships transformed as committed couples used word pictures. This change in their lives didn't happen by magic, and the deep-seated problems didn't vanish instantly. To resolve problems, a couple must consistently work on them and rely on God's strength for daily endurance. But word pictures can and do bring change, particularly as people discover this powerful pattern of "picture talk" unfold in the Scriptures. At first, you may feel awkward and discouraged when you try to use a word picture. Each step may seem tedious. But keep at it! You'll get the hang of it quicker than you think. Soon, you'll be a master at using them.
© Copyright 2005 Smalley
Relationship Center. Used by permission.
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