When Not to Talk: 7 Ways to Decide Whether Silence is Best

“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” – Proverbs 10:19

Communication is one of the most important and essential building blocks to a healthy marriage and lifelong love. But sometimes, we can complicate the situations we face with our spouse by over-communicating–and it’s times like these when we need to be able to read each situation and decide whether or not we should continue talking about it.

Silence can be a balm when we’re dealing with issues that are highly emotional, unresolved, or which have brought us to a stalemate with our spouse. Choosing to not speak–to refrain from pushing each other for answers or resolutions–can help us solve problems that might have seemed unsolvable before. Creating that space for one another can mean the difference between a solution and a long-term gridlock.

So how do you know when it’s time to give a topic a rest? We’ve compiled 7 questions to ask yourself when one or both of you has run a subject into the ground. With a little time and space, you’ll (hopefully!) be able to put your heads back together and land on a solution that works for both of you.

Let’s get started.

1. Are you two all talk, but no action?

Have you talked circles around what needs to be done to solve a particular problem…yet taken no action toward solving it? Over-analyzing, over-thinking, and over-discussing an issue can lead to “analysis paralysis”–in other words, you get stuck in a proverbial spin cycle that keeps you talking, but never results in you taking charge and taking action. And unfortunately, you find yourselves with more pressure and less energy to do the things that need to be done.

Resolution Tip: When you find yourselves over-analyzing, hit the brakes on the talk and spark momentum by saying something like, “Alright, we’ve got this covered. Let’s make it happen.” End the spin and put that energy into motion!

2. Are you giving too much unsolicited advice?

We love our spouses so much, it can be tempting to try to “fix” their bad habits by offering too much unwanted critique. Maybe we don’t like how they cook, their clutter, or their propensity for being tardy all the time, so we say little things like, “It would be so much better if you could (fill in the blank),” or “You’ll make us late if you (fill in the blank).” This can make your spouse feel judged and inadequate.

Resolution Tip: If you absolutely must share an opinion or piece of advice, try saying something to make it more palatable, like, “I know you didn’t ask for my advice, but can’t I tell you where my brain’s going?” But for the most part, try to stop inserting your opinion at every turn because it’s not helping (we promise).

3. Do you remember the problem you were discussing in the first place?

We’ve all been there–you get into a majorly heated discussion with your spouse about one thing, only to experience an avalanche of other topics and issues that are completely unrelated to what started this whole conversation in the first place. Maybe a discussion about which countertops to choose for the kitchen remodel just deteriorated into a character assassination competition involving the in-laws. Whatever the case, there’s no way you can resolve anything when you’re out in left field arguing over an unrelated topic.

Resolution Tip: When your conversation derails into unrelated territory, take a time-out by saying, “Hey, what are we doing? We need to cool down.” (Because wait–what was the first problem, again? We can’t even remember.)

Next week, we’ll share four more ways for you to decide whether it’s time to stop talking in order to bring your marriage back into a healthier harmony and balance.

Do you and your spouse know when it’s wise to stop talking? Is silence something one or both of you still needs to work on? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

6 Comments

  • Andrea says:

    All very true and amazing reminders of what we should do. I often pause, ask God for wisdom, guidance and words. Then, when I do speak, I’ve him to help me. I’m not married, but this applies to every situation.

  • I do tend to talk on and on about a subject (usually a problem) and beat it into the ground. I can tell because my husband looks tired. So I started asking him questions about what he is interested in….
    Politics, news, articles, books. I found out he loves to share and I love to listen. So with a small shift, I cut myself off LoL and try to draw him out. It keeps the conversation going longer and I feel connected to him.

  • Carol says:

    I can be silent for days not say a word because he’s too busy playing his game or watching the football game I need to stop time for hugs for any type of Affection when we are out together he was at least 10 feet in front of me never stopping or looking back when he is in middle of the game and I have to leave he can’t stop because his “tune” might die. It’s a game. What if I never came back.

  • […] of time rather than in the moment.  In today’s post I’d like to summarize first 3 of 7 ways, written by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, knowing when to be quiet may be the best choice to use in the middle of a […]

  • beliberated says:

    I’m so confused $:O. So are we just to let bad habits and bad behavior and bad communication go???
    So when does any of this bad stuff get resolved???
    Are you saying at that moment it might be a good time to just quit the conversation until a better time might come along??? I understand that badgering a person is not accomplishing anything, that’s true!, but what if you have someone who just thinks they are never wrong??? How do you deal with such difficult people??? How do you communicate with such a person that refuses to listen or is sarcastic in their reply and keeps saying “What Ever”, or It’s your problem??? You go mad, plum crazy, or you become like them, eventually!

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