My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20
The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction. Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:23-24
I better enjoy my freedom now because I won’t be seeing the light of day for a very long time. They are going to flip their lid. I mean absolutely lose it. I can just picture it now: steam is going to come out of their ears like one of those cartoon characters. I’m in for the lecture of the century. They are going to kill me and I mean literally. Let’s face it: I’m a goner.
These are just a few of the thoughts that raced through my head as I stared at my less than stellar report card during the winter semester of my junior year of high school. Knowing the outcome of the impending apocalypse, I considered forging my parent’s signature, lying and saying my dog ate it or putting myself in the witness protection program. While weighing my options, a stroke of brilliance hit me.
My parents were volunteering at the mall wrapping presents for shoppers as a Christmas fundraiser for our church. I’d drive out to the mall with my younger brother in tow and hand them my grades there. I figured being in a public place surrounded by the joy of the holidays drastically decreased the chances they would freak out and yell at me. After all, who wants an adult livid with anger wrapping their toaster or sweater?
Just in case you were wondering, my plan worked to perfection. They remained calm at the shopping center and the drive home gave them time to develop a game plan as to how they were going to handle the situation. Yes, I was still grounded (for a VERY long time) and they did express their disappointment, but we were able to have a conversation about what was causing my bad grades and as a result they improved over time. In a weird way, my parents not flipping out about my report card brought us closer.
This story is similar to what hangs in the balance in a lot of our relationships. Others are constantly testing you to see how you will respond and what remains off-limits. If they bring a sensitive subject up, you can guarantee the other person has been mulling it over for a while now. They’ve estimated and forecasted how the conversation is going to play out. Depending on your perceived response, these thoughts will either remain under the surface or actually be shared with you.
You are setting a culture of communication for your relationships. This culture can foster conversations or squash dialogue. It can make those around you feel like a priority or a nuisance and inconvenience. This system can establish points of trust or just as easily sow seeds of cynicism. It has the ability to provide love and security for growth to occur or leave others feeling judged, condemned, ashamed or misunderstood.
One system takes a great deal of work and understanding while the other takes very little to no effort. One system focuses on the lasting foundation of the relationships while the other frantically responds to the most pressing need at the time. One system breaks through the awkwardness that comes with building a relationship while the other sits back and allows insecurities and hesitation to prevail. The choice is yours as to what system you want to define and shape your relationships.
The point of communication is to be understood. When others are vulnerable enough to open up to you, it is critical that you react in a way that makes them feel valued. Rather than lecture or try to prove a point, listen. Instead of passing judgment, seek to understand. Even if you want to fly off the handle and freak out, stay calm and get to the heart of the issue. Remember to listen first, validate their words next and then finally respond.
Because you’ve taken the time to foster a system of openness, you will have influence to speak into the lives of others in a more profound way than you thought was possible. And here’s the beautiful thing. When you speak, others will listen. Why? Because they can trust you care and value their heart.
- How would you describe your communication style? How would others describe your communication style?
May I use my words wisely. Allow what I say to build people up and encourage them. But, before I speak, give me ears that seek understanding. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.