Verna Birkey tells about a couple who were having difficulties in their marriage. Particularly when they tried to talk over their differences, communication broke down and nothing was settled. The reason, they decided, was a problem of timing. Often one person was not ready to listen when the other wanted to talk. So they developed a signal. “Thumbs up” meant, “Okay you can talk to me now and I’ll hear what you are saying.” “Thumbs down” meant, “Anything you say to me now will only fall on deaf ears. Try again later.” Not a bad idea!
We all know that to have a good marriage we need to communicate with each other. But communication involves a lot more than merely talking. How we speak to each other and how the other person responds makes all the difference in the world. Before you open your mouth to talk over a sticky situation, ask yourself, “Is this a good time? Is this person ready to listen to me?”
The Bible says, “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” (Eph. 4:29).
Whoa, let’s slow down and dig into that verse. Our words need to be wholesome—that is, “good” as opposed to “rotten.” Then, they should help build others up, not tear them down. That’s where our attitude has to be right. Third, our words should fit their needs, not just our own needs. Ask yourself, “How can we settle this in such a way that both of us have our needs met?” And, last, our words should benefit those who listen. Though sometimes we have to say painful things because a bad situation needs to be changed, our words should eventually bring healing.
When you need to settle a problem, remember “Thumbs up? or thumbs down?” Be patient enough to wait for the right time to talk.
 Verna Birkey and Jeanette Turnquist, A Mother’s Problem Solver (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1978) 107.
What is God trying to say to you now with a “Thumbs up”?