Elder Kittelson serves as an Area Mental Health Advisor

When I served as a young missionary, our mission president’s wife told us, “If you have something good to say about your companion, stand on the rooftop and shout it out! If you have anything bad to say, bite your tongue and don’t say anything.” (President Sidney and Sister Anita Sager)

President Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th president of the Church, taught that “It is a responsibility divinely laid upon each of us to bear one another’s burdens, to strengthen one another, to encourage one another, to lift one another, to look for the good in one another, and to emphasize that good. There is not a man or woman … who cannot be depressed on the one hand, or lifted on the other, by the remarks of his or her associates.” “… cultivate the art of complimenting, of strengthening, of encouraging.

President Hinckley continued: “I’m suggesting that we accentuate the positive. I’m asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort.”

“I am not asking that all criticism be silent. Growth comes with correction. Strength comes with repentance. Wise is the man or woman who, committing mistakes pointed out by others, changes his or her course. I am not suggesting that our conversation be all honey. Clever expression that is sincere and honest is a skill to be sought and cultivated. What I am suggesting and asking is that we turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good in the land and times in which we live, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism. Let our faith replace our fears.” (BYU Fireside, 6 March 1994).

In marriage counseling, we teach couples to use their time and energy to attack their problems, not to attack each other. Talk about what you want, what your spouse wants, what you want together, and what the Lord wants. Then, with humility and love, you can resolve your problems. These principles can work with couples, with parents and children, with siblings, with co-workers, or wherever conflicts may exist.

Adjusting to Missionary Life, pages 37 and 38 teaches us to Communicate Openly with our Companion.

  • Listen first. When you live with someone 24/7, you will notice some things that annoy you. You come from different backgrounds and have different expectations and “rules” for what is appropriate or normal. Your companion’s behavior makes perfect sense to him or her, even if it doesn’t to you. During companion inventory, find out more about how he or she sees things by asking questions and listening carefully. (See Preach My Gospel, 185–86.)
  • Respectfully explain what is bothering you. If you are critical or angry, your companion is likely to become defensive rather than cooperative. Explain your problem and what you need rather than criticizing your companion’s bothersome behavior. For example, “I have a real dislike for dirty dishes, but I also don’t like doing them all myself. I wonder if we could set up a way to share this job.” Or, “I worry you’re angry with me when you’re so quiet. Could you tell me what you’re thinking?”
  • Be straightforward and kind. Avoid negative labels or judgments. Don’t bolster your position with long lists of your companion’s faults. Try to keep an even tone that is not angry or self-pitying (see Ephesians 4:29–32).
  • Don’t take offense. Take suggestions, even if rudely given, with as much grace and humor as you can muster.
  • Compliment your companion often. Thank him or her for things you appreciate.
  • Ask your companion for suggestions on how you can improve.Also ask the Lord to help you see your weaknesses (see Ether 12:27).
  • Try to do something nice for your companion every day.Fix lunch, listen, shine shoes, smile, hang up towels, put away dishes, write a thank-you note to his or her parents, iron a shirt, compliment him or her.

May the Lord continue to bless us and our loved ones as we strive to cultivate the art of complimenting, of strengthening, and encouraging to help us draw us closer to each other and closer to the Lord.

[Note: The ideas and suggestions contained in these articles are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional. In addition, if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek medical or mental health assistance immediately.  In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat at 988lifeline.org/chat/. Services are free and confidential.]