Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Learning to communicate shouldn't be so hard, but when you take a step back to watch communication in action you see that it's not so easy either.

One of the abilities that I believe God has given me is to find the least common denominator of a situation and to push aside the extra stuff. The extra stuff is generally what causes discord. Most people agree on the common goal, believe it or not. But we grab on to tones or facial expressions or what we perceive the message to mean and the actual topic of discussion gets so far out of focus we don't even know what we started talking about. Then we will say we are fighting about Issue A when in fact, we are fighting about ten other little things and Issue A wasn't even addressed.

In behavioral medicine, we do a lot of reflective listening, "what I'm hearing is ...." Sounds corny and it feels even cornier when you are doing it. But it's actually a valuable tool. Especially if you can be courageous enough to reveal what's really going on with yourself as well. This has been vitally important in my marriage. "What you're doing is asking me to repeat what I'm saying after I've spent five minutes telling you something." "What I'm feeling is that you aren't interested enough to focus in while I'm talking." If it seems ridiculously simple, consider that for a long time I'd replace that second sentence with "Why aren't you listening? What is so much more fascinating than I am that you can't even pretend to care what I'm saying to you?" It's actually the same message but the intention is to fix it and not fight about it. Now that we've gotten good at this whole thing, I will even add on, "You're hurting my feelings." It's taking away the accusation and replacing it with an opportunity to do better. I don't want the Mr. to hurt my feelings, so why not just tell him exactly what's happening and let him fix it? I don't always get it right, but even getting it wrong can please God. We have created a relationship where apologizing is easy and sweet. Forgiveness is guaranteed. Moving forward is immediate. This makes learning a part of loving.

We feed off of one another's emotion. Mood is contagious. When I start out with a sarcastic or belittling tone, he picks that up and reflects it right back at me. In truth, all communication is reflective. So when you're getting an ugly image, you need to stop and wonder if it is bouncing off of your own.

I'm not a perfect communicator by a long shot. But I want to be better. I want my communication to be right and holy. So I have to give it to God to make it so. I've asked him to teach me to do a better job. It usually comes down to a single question, what's the priority here?

If my priority is to make you feel guilty, bad, inferior, stupid...I can do it.

If my priority is to figure something out so that the result will glorify God...I can do that too.

You might think corrupt communication is intentionally deceitful or offensive. I don't think so. Corrupted just means unredeemed by God. In other words, if God wouldn't use those words and that tone in this situation, neither should I.

When I open my mouth, my prayer is that my priorities are right. And if they are not, let me be wise enough to keep quiet.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.


Margie said...

great post! that scripture is reaching me in many ways!

Isn't it amazing how we can look at one scripture in such different ways and learn so much about who we are in Him (and sometimes who we'd rather be!)

Jada's Gigi said...

Ahh, keeping quiet...that is the hardest lesson. It does take years to learn to fight productively.

Deb said...

You wrote this just for me, didn't you?
God knew I needed it!

Mrs. Mac said...

This sounds serious ... but all I can think about are sock monkeys (sorry ... just being honest ;)

KayMac said...

good good stuff here

Amrita said...

Very good, specially the reflective communication part.

The above (fern) conversation is very un-corny! LOL