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I SAID What I Meant - 4 Effective Speaking Skills

Good communication skills are essential for a thriving relationship, especially in marriage. In last week’s blog, “I HEARD You”, l shared how incorporating active listening skills leads to better communication.

These are the 5 effective listening skills represented by the acrostic, HEARD:

Halt - Stop what you are doing and give your undivided attention.

Eye – Maintain eye-to-eye contact during conversation.

Aware - Be aware of the speaker’s body language.

Resist - Resist interrupting.

Do - offer feedback.

Last week’s focus was on active listening. This week, I’ll describe 4 skills for effective speaking. Some people pride themselves on being “a straight shooter”. They don’t “beat around the bush” or “sugar coat” their message. They just “tell it like it is.” While that is desirable in certain circumstances, it does not necessarily take into consideration the effect that the message will have on the hearer’s attitude or feelings.

The principle behind effective speaking is to say what needs to be said without hurting the other person or damaging the relationship in the process. Warren Wiersbe said, “Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.” We need both truth and love. “Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).”


The 4 skills essential for effective speaking are outlined by the acrostic SAID.

Say – What you feel vs. actions, results, or facts. The objective of saying what you feel is that it gives you the opportunity to express your feelings about an issue without placing blame on the other person. In this way, you take ownership of your emotions and avoid judging the other person’s actions.

Imagine a situation where the husband tells his wife he’ll be home from work at 6 PM so that we can have dinner together. It’s now 7:30 PM and he hasn’t called to let his wife know he’s running late. As soon as he walks into the house his wife says, “You’re late again. You’re always late.” The fact is he is late again so his wife has a legitimate case for being upset with him. However, in terms of effective communication, her words are probably not going to elicit a positive response. More than likely, the “You’re always late” statement will result in him becoming defensive and possibly even deflecting a verbal jab by pointing out a few of her shortcomings.

A more effective approach would be for his wife to state how she feels versus stating only the facts. For example, she might say, “When you come home late without calling me, I feel like the plans that we discussed for spending more time together as a family isn’t really a priority.” In this case, she is communicating how this situation makes her feel.

Avoid - using the words “should” and “ought” as much as possible. In my experience, the quickest way to start an argument is to tell your spouse, “You ought to know better.” When a statement like that is made, unless your spouse is of very noble character, all sentiments for collaboration and goodwill fly out the window. It is important to remember the objective of effective speaking is to say what needs to be said, without harming the other person or the relationship in the process. We should strive to create receptivity for our message.

Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” If you want your message to find a listening ear and an understanding heart, avoid using the words “should” and “ought” as much as possible.

I – Statements. Practice using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. Similar to “Say what you feel”, using I statements is a way to take ownership of your own feelings, point of view, and perspective. “You” statements tend to put the other person on the defensive because they think that they are being blamed, accused misrepresented.

Do – Speak accurately. There is a tendency to over-exaggerate when we want to drive home a point. For example, we may use the words “never” and “always” which sound much more absolute and final. In most cases, the truth is you’re “often” rather than “always late or

“seldom” rather than “never” on time. A slight change of words could make all the difference in maintaining peace.


Conceptually, the 5 listening and 4 speaking skills are easy to understand; however, in the heat of the moment when you're in the middle of a conflict, they’re difficult to remember and put into practice. The goal isn’t to try to put them all into practice at one time. Instead, the idea is to set a goal to practice these new behaviors a little at a time. For example, if you have a tendency to use “you” statements, set a goal for yourself to practice the skill of using “I” statements until it becomes a habit. Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. Ant that’s our target. More effective communication leads to better conflict resolution.


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