After the Vows

Truthing in Marriage - Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog post, I shared a portion of David Augsburger’s book Caring Enough to Confront. In Part 2, I will relate portions of the second part of chapter two, titled "Truthing: A Simplified Speech Style," for encouragement and application in your marriage. 

Healthy Communication

“Healthy communication - being the truth with each other - is made up of the give and take of sending and receiving clear messages.

The two basic rules are embarrassingly simple:

(1) To communicate a message, make a statement;

(2) to ask for a message, use a question.

Could anything be more obvious? Not so fast. Simplicity in speech is to state what should be stated, ask what needs to be asked, and refuse to confuse the two. When questions are used as concealed ways to make statements, or statements are made as concealed questions, confusion results.

In healthy communication, there is a strong preference for statements, a wise caution in using questions. Why are questions so suspect? Because they are the most easily distorted form of speech, the most often co-opted and corrupted part of language."


"The most frequently misused communication pattern is the question. Questions can be clever, coercive, or concealed ways of either offering opinions passing judgment or manipulating others.

Six of the most commonly used pseudo-questions are:

The leading question that snookers: 'Don’t you feel that…?'; 'Wouldn’t you rather…?' This limits or restricts the range of possible responses and leads the witness down the primrose path to make an admission or commitment that the questioner wishes, not what the responder wants. Q: 'Don’t you think that..?' A: 'No, I don’t think that…If you think that, I invite you to say it by speaking for yourself.'

The punishing question that scolds: 'Why did you say (do, try) that?' this punishes by seeking to arouse conflicts in the other or define the other person in such a way that infers there is inconsistency, contradiction or dishonesty between intention and action. Q: 'Why did you do such a …?'A: 'I’ll tell you what I want'

The demanding question that imposes: 'When are you going to do something about…?' This actually makes a demand or sneaks in a hidden command under the guise of an innocent request for innocuous information Q: 'When are you going to get started on…?' A: 'Tell me when you want it.'

The dreaming question that conceals: 'If you were in charge here, would you rather…?' This asks for hypothetical answers The function is to criticize in a covert way-to call a point of view impractical or irrelevant but to do it as a harmless fantasy. Q: 'If you had the say around here, wouldn’t you…?' A: 'I’d like to work with what is, now.'

The needling question that provokes: 'What are you waiting for?' or 'What did you mean by that?'

This multilevel question has a multiple choice of meanings:

(1) Tell your meaning again, I’m listening.

(2) What are you implying about me?

(3) How dare you say that to me?

(4) Can’t you speak simple English, you clod?

(5) You’re attacking me. The needling question has as many levels as the listener may choose, and it has no single level. No matter which level the listener chooses to answer, the questioner can say, 'You misunderstood me.'

The trapping question that ensnares: 'Didn’t you once say that…?' This maneuvers the other into a vulnerable position ready for the hatchet. Q: 'Isn’t it true that you once…?' A: 'Ask me about the here and now, I’m available.'"

Why Questions 

 "I can do with a lot fewer questions. Especially those beginning with 'why.'

'Why' questions are most often covert ways of attempted control.

I want to eliminate 'why' from my relationships. I will ask 'what' and 'how.’ These offer all the information I need to know to relate effectively.

'Why' doesn’t ask a simple question; it tends to evaluate and judge motives and intention. 'What' or 'how' deal with what is wanted in our relationship and how we can get it."


“'Truthing' is the word we have been using in this chapter to designate simplicity, clarity, honesty, and humility in communication.

Truthing seeks simplicity in its preference for single-level statements and open-ended questions.

Truthing seeks clarity in its intention to not seduce, coerce, dominate or control.

Truthing strives for honesty-not the so-called honesty of radical openness that ventilates without considering the impact on the receiver, but the honesty of thoughtful integrity and centered trustworthiness.

Truthing prizes humility, recognizing that we know in part, see in part, understand in part."


"Truthing finds its core meaning in the two shortest and most powerful words (yes and no) - saying a genuine yes to the other, yes to life together in relationship, yes to moral integrity in what we are and do; speaking no to what diminishes self or other, no to what destroys relationship, no to what falls short of moral integrity.

To say yes to life is good; to be that unshakable yes to the virtues of moral life is to possess character.

Character is the solid stuff at the core of the self; it is the framework of personal integrity that is formed slowly and from within as one chooses to live by virtues that endure, not values that are set by context and culture. We choose virtues because they are good; values become good because we choose them.

When in the moment of decision, character enables truthing-the capacity to give clear yes-signals or no-signals. Yes-signals may seem to come more easily, no-signals with more difficulty. “No” can be one of the hardest words to pronounce-face to face.”

David Augsburger, Caring Enough to Confront, p 34-38.

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