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By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.
Ephesians 4:29

The happiest of couples don’t rely solely on communication rules, their secret lies in understanding that good communication is built first on who you are – and only later on what you do. Simply put, successful communication starts with good personal qualities.

You can read articles and books, attend workshops, and see counselors who will teach you about communication skills. But if you fail to focus on the qualities you possess as a partner, your efforts will be of little consequence. There are three must have traits for successful communication that are critical; warmth, genuineness and empathy. Today, we are touching on the highlights of these traits, and why they are the core truths of successful communication.


Showing warmth is the ability to look over faults and personality blemishes for the sake of the beauty behind it. The key to personal warmth is acceptance. Rather than evaluating or requiring change, you simply accept the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the person you love.

Practice warmth that invites your partner to be who they are; relaxed, free and at peace. Warmth should bolster the confidence of your partner, and keep them from contorting into what you expect of them. Unconditional warmth also invites God’s grace into the soul of your marriage. When your partner is certain they can never be condemned by you for who they are, and that there’s no judgement, then God’s grace has seeped into the fabric of your relationship.


Without genuineness, little else matters in marriage. In fact, your partner likely has a built-in radar detector for phoniness. They won’t trust you if they feel you aren’t being genuine. Being genuine isn’t expressed with words. What you say is far less important than how you say it – with a smile, shrug, frown or glare, for example.

Nonverbal communication accounts for 58 percent of your message, tone makes up 35 percent and your actual words account for only 7 percent. Research shows that spouses are very accurate interpreters of their partner’s nonverbal communication. You can shower your partner with love, but if you are not real your love is hollow. Authenticity and being genuine is something you are, not something you do – it comes from the heart. Your spouse will pick up on this, so make a conscious effort to be genuine.


The best way to avoid stepping on your partner’s toes is to put yourself in their shoes. That’s empathy – seeing the world from your partner’s perspective. This task can be one of the toughest in a marriage, and takes plenty of practice. To work on empathy, try asking two questions: 1) What does this look like from my partner’s perspective? and 2) How is my spouse’s perception different than mine?

Most people are wired to use either their head or heart – one more so than the other. Because of this, it takes a conscious effort to empathize. Loving with only your heart is sympathizing and loving with only your head is empathizing. Empathy brings together both heart and head, and helps us fully understand our partner. Once you are able to consciously see the perspective of your partner and experience their feelings, you will see the world differently.

To enjoy rich communication and a solid marriage, practice the three essential traits for effective communication: warmth, genuineness, and empathy. These traits make up the bedrock of communication, and provide a solid foundation for growing closer together.