The Golden Rule In Communication Part 2
If you have not read the first part of this series please take the time to read it:
Talking: Remember, It’s Not what you say, It’s how you say it!
As we consider the Golden rule: And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.(Luke 6:31) – simply put: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
We consider Paul’s words as written to brethren in the church. “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”(Eph 4:6)
Did you notice, what you have to say is not what is shown as important, but rather how you say it?
The way you say something is vital in communicating your message. Your goal in talking is, after all, to be heard and understood. How you say what you want to convey will greatly determine whether or not you are really heard.
Deep down inside us, somehow we have learned what we think of as basic survival instincts. One such response is called the fight/flight response to an attack. If you express yourself in an attacking manner, the listener is going to feel a strong instinctual urge to either attack you back in defense or to flee. In either case, your objective will not be met.
If you come across as condescending or angry, people will not respond how you would like them to. The cause of Christ, the home relationship, your friendships will only succeed if you get the message across in the proper way.
No one will be yelled at, or condescended to for very long. They just will not. It will not do you any good present your message in a way that turns people off. So let us learn how to allow our speech to be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that we may know how we ought to answer every man
Here are some important Do’s and Don’ts when talking:
- Keep it short! Limit each speaking turn to 2 minutes at most. You are saying things the other possibly disagrees with. If you go on and on, they are likely to interrupt you, forget their retorts, and become lost and frustrated.
- Use “I” statements rather than “You” statements. Example: “The way we’ve been doing things doesn’t seem fair to me, but perhaps you have a different point of view. Let’s compare notes.” As opposed to “You’re not being fair!” The latter feels more like a poke in the chest, and the response is likely to be defensive and angry.
- Give the other person the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, e.g., “You may not realize it but when you do that it really annoys me,” versus “I hate it when you do that!”
- Allow for the possibility, however remote, that the other person might have a valid point, e.g., “I’ know you have your reasons for wanting to do it that way, but I’m having difficulty in seeing what they are,” versus “Why in the world did you do it that way!”
- Avoid expressing anger and disagreement in a way that ‘feels good’ to you if it is going to ‘feel bad’ to the other. Venting anger gives us short-lived pleasure at a high cost. It leaves the other person feeling attacked and defensive. Your tone of voice makes all the difference. You do not have the right to ‘feel good’ at the expense of someone else’s hurt feelings.
- Don’t be abusive in the words you choose. No name calling, no swearing, and make as few accusations as possible.
- Don’t shout or point your finger (in any direction) at the other person.
- Avoid beginning statements with the word “You,” as in “You always......” or “You never......” as it is usually heard as an attack and will make the other person defensive. For instance, if you say “YOU ALWAYS…. Or YOU NEVER…. Do such and such. It puts people on the defensive, and it simply is not true. No one ever ALWAYS does something wrong, and they also do not ALWAYS not do something right.
Do you want people to talk to you kindly? Do you want them to show some sort of respect for you as a person – even when you are arguing? The Golden Rule still applies! Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Our words have a major impact on all those we contact. Sometimes when we tell people we are Christians, and then they see how we talk to people – they will never obey the Lord. You see, how you talk to someone today will affect what people think about you from now on.
Managing the Communication Process
In talking about the Golden Rule, we ask ourselves, how do I want others to treat me, even when we might disagree.
The fact is, every single relationship will have disagreements. The closest of companions argue, the best of friends fight. Try as we may, we will never be ‘argument free.’
But we can learn how to ‘control’ our emotions during these disagreements. It really does have to do with learning to control our tongues.
Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. (James 3:5-6)
Or as one relationship expert said: "Anger is like a grass fire; you better catch it early or you will get burned!”
Rarely do arguments fail to reach a successful resolution because of the issue at hand (the content). Arguments fail because the process of arguing becomes frustrating for both parties. Anger builds as each person competes with the other to get their point across. Eventually, one or both give up and walk away in the middle (the impasse) feeling bewildered, aggravated, and committed to avoid the futility of future arguments.
The key to keeping an argument on track is to keep an eye on how each of you is feeling about the discussion and to spot as early as possible the first signs of trouble.
Like a grass fire, early intervention is the key to not letting things get out of control.
One important agreement a couple must have is that either party has the right to temporarily interrupt an argument at any time, with the following two conditions:
- The person creating the break or the postponement must at that time identify when the argument will be resumed. This makes it less frustrating for the one who has the desire to begin or continue the argument.
- The person creating the postponement has the responsibility to initiate the discussion at that agreed upon time. This lets the other out of the position of having to chase down the reluctant party.
The reason for this vital agreement is that either party must have the ability to stop an escalation of their own anger or the other’s.
Ideally, an argument or discussion should only be postponed for a number of minutes or if necessary for a few hours. Try to avoid letting things go until the next day. We all know how bad it feels to wake up with that feeling of tension hanging in the air.
Some examples of how to effectively control the level of anger are:
“Look, I know we need to resolve this, but I need a brief break to calm down so I don’t lose my temper. I’m going to get a glass of water and take a few breaths. Can I come to find you in ten minutes?” Or, “ I feel like we are just going in circles here and it's very late. I’m tired and have to get up early tomorrow and as much as I hate to go to bed angry and with this unresolved, I’m afraid it will turn into a fight if we don’t get some rest. Let’s get some sleep and finish working this out after dinner tomorrow night. O.K.?”
- Always keep one eye on the argument. Make sure both people are able to keep control of feelings and emotions.
- Make process comments and interventions, e.g. “Please let me finish my thought and then I’ll listen to you. “ Or “You seem to be getting angrier with me. Am I doing something to initiate you?
- Take breaks! When the going gets tough, the wise go to the bathroom!
- It is never O.K. to lose control of your anger and become verbally or otherwise abusive. It can be quite normal, but you must never make it acceptable for either of you. If you do lose control, and you probably will at first, you must at the earliest possible moment acknowledge it, apologize for it, feel remorse, and vow to yourself to not let it happen again.
- Never walk away or refuse to discuss something until you have reached an agreement that feels good enough to both of you as to when the issue will be discussed.
- Never chase the other around insisting that something be discussed at that moment. They may be doing you a favor by seeing you are too angry to avoid an argument turning into a fight. Only insist on knowing when the other will be willing to continue the discussion.
Our Lord expects us to work on our relationships. He did not say it would be easy and he did not say it would always be ‘fair.’ What we do know, is that if we will learn to be consistent in obeying the Golden Rule, of treating others how we would like to be treated at all times an in all situations, that alone, would go a long way to helping our relationships to grow and our communication to be what it should be.
** Portions of the previous articles and the following articles have been taken both from a “Relationship Expert” friend of mine, and my own experience in dealing with people. These articles are intended to give us the tools to properly communicate with one another, and be able to resolve ANY and ALL conflict based upon the principles set up in God’s Word.