Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category


WATCH YOUR MOUTH!

Use your words to build people up.  Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

When I was in college the janitorial company I worked for was hired to tear down a wall in an apartment and then clean it up.  I had never done anything like that before.  I didn’t know how to start so I asked supervisor for instructions.  He said, take this sledge hammer and hit this wall until there is nothing left to hit.  I had more fun that day that is lawful in the state of Mississippi!  It’s fun to tear things down. 

Sometimes with our words it’s like a sledgehammer, no planning, no thinking.  We swing away and all of a sudden we look around and all we’ve got is a pile of rubble, relational rubble.  When you just swing away with your words and tear people down inevitably your relationships are going to suffer.  Words are the single most important tool given to man by God.  Without a doubt! 

One of the reasons we’re not constructive with our words is we don’t realize how powerful this tool is, our mouth.  We say things without thinking.  People remember them.  The things people have said to you in a thoughtless way it may have been as far back as grade school or college or when you first started working.  You still remember some of those things.  That’s how powerful words are.  So when it comes to your mouth, think of it as a power tool and be very careful with it.

Here are directions for the use of a power tool I bought several years ago. I was struck by how it related to the use of another power tool that God has given us – our mouth. 

  • Know your power tool.
  • Keep guards in place.
  • Be careful around children.
  • Store idle tools when not in use.
  • Don’t over reach
  • Never use in an explosive atmosphere.

It fits how we are to use this mouth which is an incredible tool to build people up.

How can I start using it more carefully so instead of destroying with it, I’m building and constructing relationships with it? 

1.  Stop excusing.  Stop saying, “I didn’t really mean to say that.”  or “It’s just that blood sugar dip before lunch.  That’s all it was.”  Stop excusing and realize that what you say is impacting everybody around you.         

2.  Talk less.  If it’s a power tool – you don’t have to use it as much.  Talk less.  One of the reasons we get in trouble is we just talk too much sometimes.  We talk before we think.  We need to talk less and…

 3.  Listen more.  If I listen more I can understand people’s needs.  One of the small lessons of life that makes an incredible impact on the way you and I use our words. 

 4.  Start building.  Think first of all, “what do they need?”  How can I use a word of encouragement to build them up?  How can I use a word of challenge to make a difference in their life?  How can I use my words to build the people that I love the most?

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Getting Real

How do we end this relationship damaging game?

1. Decide that being “real” with others is more productive than being “nice.”

It sounds simple, but it’s not. I’m talking about making a change in a basic value that many of us have held our entire lives. Many of us believe that “niceness” is what people really want from us.

Now, it is true that almost everyone enjoys being around people who are pleasant. But, as Proverbs 28:23 puts it:

In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery. Proverbs 28:23 [NLT]

In other words, people would prefer the truth. In other words, “it might be hard, I might even get mad, but please for the sake of our relationship, tell me how I’m doing with you. That’s the only way I can ever improve.”

2. Attempt to handle conflict in a biblical manner.

What is the biblical mandate for dealing with conflict? Jesus said “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 [NIV]

In other words, don’t wait for the other person to take the initiative in resolving things. And get this – resolving things is even more important that worshiping God. If you come to church and there is someone here that you are out of whack with … deal with them first, then deal with God. Pretty radical, but that’s what Jesus is saying here.

Jesus also said there is a sequence for dealing with conflict:

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along [that’s when you get to ask them to pray – AFTER you go on your own first, not before], so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17 [NIV]

3. Get comfortable saying these three phrases:

“I’m angry.”

But don’t stop there, because one of the traps of the Hide and Seek game is assuming that you can read the minds of other people. So, you need to get comfortable saying …

“Can you help me understand?”

I’m angry, but I want to hear your side of the deal, too. Maybe there is something I am missing.

“I forgive you.”

I’m talking about real and true forgiveness, not merely saying “it’s OK” when it’s not.

Real and true forgiveness is always painful. Real forgiveness requires confronting another person with the fact that they did you wrong, that it hurt you and that you didn’t like it … but that you have accepted the pain and are choosing to let it go. It costs you something – pain – but it gains you something – peace of mind and the opportunity for a renewed relationship.

4. Be a God pleaser before being a man pleaser.

No matter how nice you are you will never please everyone all of the time. With God, you don’t even have to try to be nice to win his approval. In fact, he offers forgiveness to us before we attempt to be nice. While we were still sinners, Paul writes, Christ died for us.

I’ve covered a lot of stuff over the past three days. Let me end with a couple of cautions.  If you are a hider, don’t get down about it. Everybody struggles with game playing in relationships. Just own it and pick one or two things off of this list and start to work on them.

Second, if this is not you, don’t beat somebody else over the head with this information. They already know it’s them and they are very vulnerable right now. What you need to do is to remind them that with God’s help they will be able to grow and change, and to encourage whatever progress that you see in them.

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When it comes to social interactions, I have what is known as a Melancholy temperament.  This means that interacting socially for me with people outside of my closest friends and family is somewhat stressful.  I did not know this about myself until recently.  However, one thing I have always known is that I have always felt awkward talking with people I don’t know very well.  I have on too many occasions walked away from social conversations saying to myself, “That was a stupid thing to say.” 

It would be very selfish of me to just not speak to people or to stay home all the time and never venture out to parties or situations where casual conversation is expected.  Beyond that, part of the mission of a Christian is to share the good news of Christ with the world.  You just can’t do that without stepping out and speaking up. 

Two thoughts have helped me with this:

  1. As a Christian, I have the Spirit of God living in me and He is wisdom. Did you catch that?  He is wisdom.  Not, He has wisdom… He is wisdom!  I have wisdom in perfect form living within me.  If I am tuned in to the Spirit living in me, I never have to worry about what to say.  I never need to be intimidated by the person I am talking to because if he or she is wise, their wisdom came from the same Spirit living in me.
  2. Being a good conversationalist is not primarily about saying the right thing but responding the right way to what the other person is saying.  I think Mr. Carnegie has is right in his HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE.  He says that if you want people to walk away from a conversation with you thinking, “Wow, he’s a good conversationalist,” you need to learn the art of listening.  I once read that God has given us a picture of how this is suppose to work by giving us two ears and only one mouth.  I hope to explore the fine art of listening in the days ahead. 

Let me know what you think about this or any of my other posts.  I’m listening!

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Each person in our living environment is unique. That’s just a nice way to say that people are just different. We are all a complex blend of background, temperament, and giftedness. This fact is the root of most relational conflict. Uniqueness poses many communication problems. Simply stated: Often we simply don’t understand each other! We may use the same words, but the same words can have very different meanings. Our communications come out sideways instead of forward as intended. After just a short time in the world we can all relate to the words of Thomas Moffett. “Men dig their graves with their own teeth and die more by those fated instruments than the weapons of their enemies.”

Wise people recognize and value the differences between people and they relate to individuals in customized ways. They don’t relate to everybody with the same predictable style.

Would you like to be wise in relating to people? The Bible describes the characteristics of genuinely wise people: “Wisdom is pure… peace loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy… It is wholehearted and straightforward and sincere. (If you) are a peacemaker, you’ll plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.” James 3:15-17 (Living Bible)

From these verses we learn six ways to be wise when we deal with others:

As I am truly wise…

1. I won’t compromise my integrity (“wisdom is pure”)
I will be honest; I will keep my commitments.

2. I won’t stir up others’ anger (“wisdom is peace loving”)
I will work toward harmony; I will avoid pushing your hot buttons.

3. I won’t minimize others’ feelings (“wisdom is courteous”)
Perhaps I don’t feel as you do, but I respect your feelings; I won’t ignore or ridicule you.

4. I won’t criticize others’ suggestions (“wisdom allows discussion”)
I will disagree when appropriate, but I won’t be disagreeable.

5. I won’t emphasize others’ mistakes (“wisdom is full of mercy”)
I won’t rub it in — I will help rub it out.

6. I won’t disguise my motivations (“wisdom is wholehearted and sincere”)
I will not be unnecessarily guarded; I will in no way manipulate you.

We have all had regrettable moments when we acted out of something less than wisdom. The good news is it’s never too late to begin to walk in wisdom. We can change by God’s grace and power if we simply call upon him.

“Mount Everest, you have defeated me. But I will return, and I will defeat you because you can’t get any bigger — and I can!” — Sir Edmund Hillary.

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You can’t do business without communicating. That means to get ahead you’ve got to continually work on your communication skills. It has been estimated that 75% of the problems at work are related to poor communication — with customers, clients and co-workers. Poor communication is also the most frequently mentioned problem in marriage counseling.

To Effectively Communicate, We Must Give Up Three Things:

I. Give up our assumptions. We get into trouble when we start assuming we understand the meaning of what people say to us. The truth is everything you hear goes through filters. Your filters are determined by your past experiences, your unique personality and your temperament. You may not be hearing what they are actually saying. Therefore, it is smart (and safe!) to ask for clarification. There are six possible messages every time you speak:

A. What you meant to say versus what you actually said

B. What they heard versus what they think they heard

C. What they say about something versus what you think they said about it. Proverbs 18:13 says, “It’s foolish to answer before listening.”

II. Give up our accusations. You will never get your point across by being cross! Anger and sarcasm only make people defensive… and that destroys communication. Here are four most common forms of accusation:

A. Exaggerating: making sweeping generalities. Statements like “You always” and “You never” are always untrue, and never helpful.

B. Labeling: derogatory name calling. Labeling, even when it’s true, never changes anyone. It only reinforces a negative behavior.

C. Playing Historian: bringing up past failures, mistakes, and broken promises.

D. Asking Negative Loaded Questions: ones that can’t really be answered, like, “Can’t you do anything right?” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Use only helpful words, the kind that build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

III. Give up our apprehensions. Fear prevents honest communication. It causes us to conceal our true feelings, and fail to confront the real issues. The two most common apprehensions are: the fear of failure and of rejection. But when you face your fear and risk being honest — real communication can happen. Freedom is the result of openness. No matter what price we pay for relational freedom, it is worth the price. Ephesians 4:25 “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

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GAME PLAN

Ok, let’s get more specific. How does the game actually work in relationships?

In my previous post I wrote that all you needed to play the kids version of King of the Hill was a bunch of kids and some elevated surface. To play relational King of the Hill what you need is a basic belief that the way you relate to others is the right way (and even if it’s not, it doesn’t matter).

In other words, you have to have it in your mind that your way of doing things – including relationships – is superior to everyone else’s; that there isn’t a whole lot left for you to learn on the subject; and even if there was, it doesn’t really matter because you are strong enough to make everyone around you submit to your way.

Most of us aren’t quite as in-your-face as that. We’ve learned that there are several strategies to get the upper hand and to take charge of those around us. As I hit on these you might want to place a mental check mark next to the ones that apply to you.

1. “Pull rank” verbally or non-verbally.

When your kids complain about your policies and decisions and want to know why, is your primary explanation to them “because I said so?” “I’m your father” …”I’m your mother” … That’s what it means to pull rank.

In essence, whenever we communicate, “you have to do it my way because, right now, I am higher on the hill than you are” we’re pulling rank. And if we’re not careful, we can fall into a pattern of doing that to our spouses, children, subordinates at work and even our friends.

Is there ever a time when it is valid to pull rank? Yes, but very rarely. Only when it is critical that things be done your way and only after every other option has been exhausted.

2. Take offense when someone questions you.

This communicates that you don’t like anyone thinking that they may have a better way or better idea than you do. To be King of the Hill, you need everyone to automatically assume that your way is the best way, that your ideas are the best ideas. So, you need to let people know that if they don’t do that, you are going to make things hard on them.

3. Expect others to compensate for your relational weaknesses.

Have you ever heard yourself saying to someone else, “Look, this is just who I am. This is how I roll. Take it or leave it”?

Occasionally, it may be ok to say something like that, but people who play this game say it all the time. Instead of admitting their weaknesses and trying to improve themselves, they throw the burden onto everyone else. “You learn how to deal with me,” they say, “and we’ll all get along just fine.”

4. Stick together primarily with “birds of a feather.”

It’s hard to play this game for a long time because it hurts to have people leave you or distance themselves from you. So, you need to have other people (who are also playing the game in their relationships) encourage you that your way is the right way. They understand exactly how you feel, because they, too, are surrounded by jerks who just need to get in line.

5. Rely on logic to control people.

“Knowledge is power”, they say, and so people who play this game strive to become masters of knowledge – or at least enough knowledge to have control over others. (Very rarely does their knowledge ever apply to them personally). They know it all and they know how to present it in a way that makes everyone else look stupid or foolish.

So, that’s the strategy, But how do you win?

A win (and I use that word somewhat sarcastically, because nobody really wins in this game) amounts to successfully covering up your personal insecurity through pride.

That’s the real goal of people who play this game. On the outside, they appear totally self-sufficient. But, on the inside, they are full of self-doubt. “Do people really care what I think? Will they listen to me? Am I valuable? Am I capable?” … and the list of questions goes on and on. So, to compensate, they put on a front that says, in essence, “I’m better than you”, which is the definition of PRIDE.

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I think we can all agree that conflict happens in even the best relationships. When it does happen, there are certain deadly weapons that should be considered out of bounds.  These tend to provoke anger and resentment.  If we avoid these seven landmines, we will find that conflict can be healthy and can actually move our relationships forward.

1.  Never Compare.  Don’t say “Why can’t you be like…” or “You’re just like … ”  It’s unfair to compare.  God made every person unique.

2.  Never Condemn.  Don’t use phrase like, “You always…” or “You never… You ought to… You should… You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”  Don’t become someone else’s conscience. Only God has the right to judge so don’t start statements with “You…” because that’s a judgmental statement usually — “You do this… You do that…”  Start them with “I”.  “I need this from you…  I feel this…”  If somebody says “I feel it”, try to accept it as legitimate — whether you understand it or not don’t say, “You shouldn’t feel that way!”  If they feel it, just accept it.  It doesn’t mean you agree with it or it’s legitimate just accept as the way they way they feel.  “I need… I feel… It seems to me…” is much less threatening, must less condemning than to make “You” statements:  “You ought to, you should… you never… you always…”

3.  Never Command.  Don’t try to end an argument by force. “I demand that you do what I say!  I command you to do this…” This is especially true if the conflict is with a spouse. Don’t try to be a parent to your spouse.  Don’t make demands because it has a way of raising the temperature in the room. 

4.  Never Challenge.  We do this with threats.  “Just try that and see what happens!”  I remember when I was a kid and someone would say, “I don’t want to hear another peep out of you.”  You probably can guess what my next sound would be. (Peep!) That is the rebellious nature of humanity.  If somebody says “I dare you” you’re going to take the dare.  Don’t threaten, challenge, and lay down the gauntlet.  That is a mark of immaturity.  Let’s grow up and not use that.

5.   Never Condescend.  Never treat another person as an inferior.  Don’t belittle your spouse. “You shouldn’t feel that way.”  Don’t put them down.  Don’t ridicule them for their feelings or their logic or whatever. Above all, don’t play psychologist.  “I know why you said that… You said that because…”  Most of us have a difficult enough time figuring out our own motives much less figure out another person’s.  Don’t prejudge motives.  That’s definitely playing God. 

6.  Never Cut Off.  Never interrupt in the middle of a sentence.  When we get into arguments the tendency is to only see our side.  We tend to jump in before the other person has finished.  We’re not thinking about what the other person is saying.  We’re not listening.  We’re just thinking about what we’re going to say. The average person can talk 150 words a minute but the average person can listen to about 650 words a minute.  That leaves a 500 word per minute boredom factor.  That means while they’re talking to you, you’re already thinking about what else you’re going to say.  You cut people off.  Wait your turn to talk when you’re in a conflict.  Let them say their whole piece and then you can say your piece and back and forth.  Don’t cut each other off.  Treat each other with consideration.  I have a button that I made with the picture of an ear on it.  When I have a couple in my counseling office that has problem with this I will let one person hold the “listening” button to remind them that it is their turn to listen.

7.  Never Confuse.  This is when you bring up unrelated issues in the middle of the argument.  Often you do this intentionally to side track people.  Some of us are very good at this.  When we are in an argument that we know we’re losing we bring up something unrelated and start arguing about that.  You keep switching the argument because you realize you’re losing.  Stick with the issue.  Don’t confuse issues.

Let me summarize these seven things in one sentence:  Attack the issue not each other.  Proverbs 11:29 says, “The fool who provokes his family to anger and resentment will finally have nothing worthwhile left.”  It is foolish to intentionally cause anger or resentment.  It’s dumb but we do it all the time when we’re angry.  After a while we learn how to push the emotion hot buttons of people.  You know what will tick off your husband/wife/parents/kids.  You know if you push that button it’s going to make them mad.  The Bible says it’s dumb to push those buttons, to make people angry intentionally, to intentionally build resentment.  It is foolish!

Photo:  Jacob Rickard’s photostream (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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