As marriage coaches, we deal with this topic on a daily basis. It’s an important part of good communication skills to discern the difference, and understand the impact each has on our audience …… particularly our spouse.

Fact vs opinion

When we share the facts – the truth – we are telling what happened. Sharing truth is fair, and it promotes positive regard, respect, and tolerance. This leads to acceptance.

When we give our opinion, it is sometimes met with resistance, which can foster a defensive response. This leads to judgment, and prejudice, and it blocks growth in the individual and in the relationship. It ultimately leads to rejection.

In open communication, we “stick to the facts” about the situation and the feelings that we are experiencing. Feelings are not right or wrong, it’s what we do with those feelings that determines if our behaviors are right or wrong.  It’s important that we don’t take what the other person is feeling personally; let them work through the feeling, maintaining empathy and working through their opinion (what their head is telling them) to the truth (what their heart is saying).

Jesus said it best in John 8:31-32:

31Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Like Joe Friday often said – “just stick to the facts, ma’am!”

Staying in the truth sets us free from the judgment and the prejudice that comes with opinions. I recently talked to a young teenager and asked her why she didn’t talk with her mom, why she clammed up when her mother starting dialoging with her. Her response was, “because I’m going to hear her opinion.” May we all learn from this beautiful young girl ……. become better listeners and keep our opinions to ourselves.

Dr. Henry Cloud admonishes us to “develop the ability to listen in a way that communicates understanding. When we listen, we hear. And it may be that we understand. But if we cannot communicate our listening in a way that lets the other person know we have truly understood, empathy has not occurred. There is no connection.”

Cindy and David Southworth are marriage and relationship coaches, certified through the American Assn of Christian Counselors and members of the International Christian Coaching Assn. Cindy is a John Maxwell certified speaker, trainer, and coach.  They are the owners of Breakwater Coaching.  You can visit their website at www.breakwatercoaching.com.