“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21 NKJV
Of all the things that can influence our daily interactions with people, nothing affects it more profoundly than our communication. The ability to convey thoughts, feelings, and ideas in such a way that the other person hears, receives, and understands them cannot be over-emphasized.
There are so many things that affect our communication with other people, such as our personal relationship or connection with the other person. Often the subject of our communication can instill fear or other emotions in the person who is hearing us.
In a perfect world, our conversations would be well received by anyone who hears it, with the understanding that our intentions are good. However as many of us have experienced, that is easier said than done.
Undoubtedly, perhaps the greatest challenge of our personal communications has been with family and friends. The thought of having to discuss perhaps our own personal shortcomings or a mistake can send fear and panic to our brains when we have to confront the other person.
But are there ways to be honest and effective and yet show empathy for the impact of our words on another?
Part of our maturity and growth in any relationship is to be able to effectively communicate our truth in such a manner that it is well received, even if it is not good news. Like anything else, that takes a commitment to work and practice.
The more you talk about difficult subjects you will get better at understanding the best communication style and tactics that will have a meaningful impact and preserve the integrity of your relationship. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Is it worth it? Most definitely.
Over time, however, you will gain more confidence to have the tough talk, instead of avoiding it altogether, which can sometimes make things even worse. It may surprise you to know that being able and being willing to talk about something negative to your partner, family member or close friend is an act of trust.
It is a sign that you trust their reactions and emotions in response to what you have to say. For them, they will eventually thank you for your honesty to tell them hard things even though painful, versus your desire to shield them and protect them with a lie or complete avoidance.
Respect, Kindness, and Sincerity
“There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health.” Proverbs 12:18 NKJV
In all of our daily communications and especially with our loved ones, our level of respect and kindness is being evaluated. These qualities are in even greater need when we have to discuss something that will make the other person and ourselves uncomfortable. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider how you would like someone to approach you with a difficult message.
Remember the end goal is to communicate our truth and yet maintain a solid relationship with the other person on the other side of the conversation. While we cannot control or dictate the response or actions of others, we can lessen the impact by the way we approach and discuss the matter.
Here are some tips to consider.
“The truthful lip shall be established forever, But a lying tongue is but for a moment.” Proverbs 12:19 NKJV
I have a confession to make. I have lied before to protect the feelings of another person. In retrospect, I was wrong and should have instead told them how difficult it was for me to have the discussion, and that they deserve the truth because I cared about them as a person, and I place high value on the relationship.
While some may disagree, I have learned from experience that the truth, even the painful truth is better than a lie. A lie can only deepen the wound and build more distrust which is the opposite of the purpose of your conversation. A painful truth told in love is better for both parties and out of your willingness to tell the other person the truth regardless of how uncomfortable it is, comes a level of personal growth and maturity that cannot be gained in any other way.
Your willingness, to tell the truth, signifies how important the relationship is to you and to them. If it is a relationship that you want to flourish and blossom, then you must infuse it with honesty. In turn when or if the time should come when your partner, friend or family member needs to tell you something, your truth to them will make it easier for them to tell their truth to you.
Don’t Dictate How They Should Feel
“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” Proverbs 15:28 NKJV
Often times in our desire to mitigate the emotions of the other person we try to dictate to them how they should feel or even compare our feelings to theirs.
You don’t get to decide how your partner feels about the news you are delivering to them. They are entitled to have and experience their emotions even if the reaction is not what you are expecting.
Telling a person not to be mad at you will not make it so. Just express your support for them in any way they need, even if that means giving them some time and space. If you are coming clean about your transgression, then the discussion you need to focus on is about you and your behavior and ways to change and fix things going forward.
If the other person needs some time to reflect and process what you have told them, then be respectful of their need. If you force the issue in that moment, they may lash out in anger or other emotions which will only complicate things and make it more difficult to communicate with them.
Walk The Talk
“Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:13,14 NKJV
All of your best intentions are meaningless unless you have a specific plan in place and the desire and determination to actually correct the situation. This is especially important if perhaps you have caused harm to the other person. It is far better to take action that the other person can observe over time, instead of making promises. Your actions to improve and do better speak much louder than your words.
As humans with our sinful flaws, it is normal to find ourselves occasionally in situations where we have hurt another person or broken a degree of trust.
You don’t want to be a person who is all talk and no action. As Christians, our character and reputation is determined and judged by the actions we do far more so than the words we speak. It adds to your creditability and trustworthiness. Let the other person know that you are the person that you say you are.
Having a conversation about your responsibility is a great start. Taking action to correct your behavior is a great finish.
Their Response Is Out Of Your Control
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 NIV
In our dealings with others, especially in our communications, one of the most feared responses is one of anger. It may surprise you to know that anger is a valid God-given emotion. How that anger is used however makes all the difference in the outcome.
In our dealings with others and especially our close relationships, it is important that we get a good understanding of their anger, and what impact it has on them. We need to be able to have a level of empathy to understand what is generating their anger. Anger may seem straightforward on the surface, however many times it is only an outward expression of some other unrealized hurt, pain, or trauma. Often it can be energized by fear and frustration.
Anger may be the last resort of expression to some things that have been building up that are totally unrelated to the situation at hand. For example, a person may have had a challenging week at work. They may have been late for work on a Tuesday when they were rushing out the door and spilled coffee on their shirt.
Perhaps the boss, demanded that they put in extra hours twice this week at work because other people were on vacation and those tasks were delegated to them.
Then they at last see you and you have something important to say that will rub them the wrong way. Or it could be something simple as a request from the wife to fix a leaky faucet during a time you are trying to get well-deserved relaxation. What happens? Boom! An explosion of all the week’s frustrations bursts in a single moment when the wife asked nicely about fixing the leaky faucet.
Anger requires God’s help to restore peace and proper perspective. While it is natural for us to want to be in control of their anger, the truth however, their anger or any response is out of our control. Yes, we can help minimize it, but ultimately it is up to them to process and handle it with integrity.
You also must realize that your best efforts to speak the truth in kindness sometimes will be met with open hostility. The fallen nature of man is such that we do not know the condition of the human heart of other people. We cannot assume that they will respond in the exact same way we would respond to the same message. We must allow them a measure of grace, even in their anger.
Is It Something I Said?
The shock of an angry reaction may have you questioning your entire conversation with the other person or even your relationship with them. Sometimes the water is muddy in determining if their anger is justified and rational. You may even question if you should have had the conversation in the first place.
Your job is to speak the truth with love and kindness, and then let God be responsible for the results. Your job also is to present the truth in the best way possible, so that it does not feel like a personal attack on the other person. If they feel like you are attacking them, then it may be an indication of their spiritual condition, or an unwillingness to be reasonable in the moment. A cooling down period most always causes anger to subside.
You do not have to assume responsibility for their inability to handle anger. But rather be gracious in acknowledging it and help them find ways to let it abate. Maybe something simple as some time and space is all that is needed. I have found myself saying, “I know you are angry, and you have a right to be. I am willing you give you the time and space you need to process, so we can discuss this with less emotion and more rationale.”
It is important to acknowledge their emotions, and it helps to differentiate if the real problem lies with you or them.
Establish Boundaries For Displayed Anger
“Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” Ephesians 4:26 NKJV
It is important to recognize the difference between anger as an emotion, and anger that is expressed as aggression. Anger is fundamentally different than aggression. Being angry in and of itself is not a sin, however how we express that anger can lead to sin.
An example of how to establish and enforce a boundary would be to tell your partner that though they have the right to be angry they do not have the right to belittle you or shout with insults and aggressive speech.
For established boundaries to work you must make it clear that there will be consequences and then you must follow through. You must tell them that you acknowledge their anger, but there are things you will not tolerate in the way they express it. For example, if the other person starts yelling, screaming, and cursing; then you politely tell them that you are leaving the conversation, and then do so.
Build Bridges To The Heart
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:6 NKJV
In closing let us not forget the importance of why we engage with others, even to discuss something that might not be received well. Our first and utmost desire is to uplift and build up whoever we come across. We are to leave an impression of goodwill, even though we may have to first deal with conflict.
Never let it be said that as Christians we left a flaming arrow in the heart of another. Consider how we would want others to deal with us in communicating. One of the outstanding characteristics of Jesus Christ was his ability to talk with all kinds of people from various backgrounds. He left an unmistakable impression on them when he talked.
He conveyed the truth that needed to be heard. It was well received by those who had a prepared heart. Even those who responded with anger, undoubtedly knew that he had their best interest at heart.
So it must be with you and me. We are in the business of building bridges to the heart. Our conduct and communication wrapped in loving kindness is the foundation and key.
Eugene Coghill is a contributing writer at Faith Filled Family Magazine, and the creator of Kingdom Living, www.eugenecoghill.com a Christian-based inspirational blog. His achievements have included two published novels, Love Is A Fishnet (2008) and most recently, A Loving Deception (February 2020). He is in pursuit of a freelance copywriting career with American Writers and Artists, Inc., and is a member of the Professional Writers Alliance.
Some past careers have included the United States Marine Corps, law enforcement, corporate Investigator, and is currently a professional driver (tractor trailer) for Walmart.
Inspirational speaking, especially to troubled youths has become his growing passion to share his own story of overcoming a very abusive and challenging childhood.