Early in our marriage, Mike and I were acquainted with a couple where we attended church. We saw them weekly in our young married class and socially with our group several times a year. We had a sense that there were some relationship issues, but the comments they made about one another became more and more pointed and ugly over time. Ultimately they divorced, and by then it was no real surprise. They shared the evidence of their relationship issues with everyone they knew through their uncomplimentary comments about each other.
On the flip side, I recently visited with a former boss and his wife who, after 45+ years of marriage are still very much in love and support each other in lots of ways. Ever since I’ve known them, they have stuck by one another through some rough times professionally and with their family. Every time there was any turmoil, they would choose to walk through the issue together. Ultimately this made them stronger as a couple and great examples to those friends and family that know them. They are still inspiring us today.
How Speaking Well of Your Spouse, Reflects Well on You
For day-to-day talk about your spouse, keep it in the positive column, and you’ll gain points yourself. How does this work?
Many of us were taught as children, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Well, it seems these wise words are now proven through scientific studies and trials. The term Spontaneous Trait Transference is when communicators take on the qualities they verbally describe in others.
Benefits of Speaking Well
So how does this translate to us? Just talk well of others, and those verbalized characteristics will stick to you too.
When I say, “Mike is such a wise and caring spouse. He has my best interest at heart.” to someone who does or doesn’t know Mike, then I too am seen as a wiser and more caring person. Somewhere in the verbal admiration stream, those traits are made more visible in me too.
How does this transfer happen and how does this benefit you?
- You (the speaker) automatically become associated with the characteristics and traits you talk about, and those are remembered over time.
- You are more likely to actually influence specific trait impressions.
- It’s a brain thing. God in His wisdom created us to honor and model those things we admire and speak of in others.
WARNING: THE OPPOSITE IS ALSO TRUE – IF YOU SPEAK POORLY OF OTHERS, THOSE CHARACTERISTICS ALSO STICK TO YOU, AND YOU ARE THEN ASSOCIATED WITH THESE NEGATIVE TRAITS.
Personally, when I read that, I realized that my comments about others are not always complementary. I don’t want to be associated with some of the traits and characteristics I have openly pointed out in others. Time for me to change my thinking and attitude!
How Does This Help your Relationship?
Creates TRUST AND RESPECT
When you consistently speak well of your spouse (publicly and in private), it creates TRUST and RESPECT in your relationship and with others. TRUST and RESPECT are two cornerstones of any good relationship. By showing genuine admiration for your spouse or any relationship, you create an atmosphere of mutual honor and respect.
Other people respect the fact that you speak well of each other and will be encouraged by your honest praise of the people you value most. The opposite is also true. When you verbally bash your spouse or boss to others, it’s natural to wonder if this person speaks about me in the same way, behind my back. You can vicariously help couples around you see the better parts of their relationship by pointing out the better parts of yours.
Get More of What You Notice, Admire and Reinforce
When you praise your spouse or others around you for specific traits and actions, typically, you’ll get more of what you admire. “I just love it when Mike does the grocery shopping! He’s so much more conscientious than I am about prices and always accommodates my special additions to the list.” Guess what, Mike likes to grocery shop, and he also likes to be admired for it! I get more of what I notice and express.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:29,31).
Tell us in the comment box below what you admire about someone close to you.