A few of my kids went to school this morning after a heated conversation. Both had tears in their eyes & it rips me up as their mom to see this tension and strife. Which makes me wonder how God “feels” when we are yucky with each other. The truth is that any relationship worth it’s weight will have to work through conflict. So here are a few pointers to help with this challenge:
benefit of the doubt: assume the best rather than blame the worst
double standard: be mindful that you don’t just the other person by actions but ourselves by intentions
breathing space: sometimes a “cool down” can bring some clarity and options that aren’t available when we are in the heat of a conflict
be generous: seek to understand before being understood
forgive well: practice makes perfect
conclusion: sometimes the best outcome is to agree to disagree without being disagreeable 🙂
I’ve been watching the situation with Israel & Palestine over the last month & I was very happy to read this morning about the ceasefire and what seems to be the ramp down of the military conflict between Israel & Palestine. If you have looked into any of the history of this area, you’ll quickly see that this area of the world has been unstable to varying degrees for millennia. Regardless of which side of the conflict you sympathize, its good for everyone that they constructively work toward a peace that can be realisticlly achieved between these neighboring countries.
With that being said, I don’t see how you can be a neighboring country, endeavoring to build trust while concurrently telling your population that your neighbor is the enemy – both sides do this. I also don’t see how you can build trust when an underlying tenant of your political existence is the obliteration of your neighboring country – there has to be mutual respect for mutual sovereignty. Finally, you can’t build trust without first creating an environment for constructive conversation.
From time to time, we all get to hang out with or be around grumpy people, no matter how well refined our avoidance skills are. So here are some brief thoughts for your consideration:
*check yourself first – is the person being grumpy because of your actions, words or attitude?
*be gracious – Proverbs says that a soft answer turns away wrath
*be soft & gentle, looking for words that repair rather than escalate
*generous forgiveness is always a handy resource
*be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle – Plato
*confront dysfunctional behavior with constructive timing & opportunity
*seek to reconcile more than dominate 🙂
This morning, my husband & I had an interesting chat about something he’s not very keen on. I could tell that something was bothering him & I’m super grateful that we could constructively talk through his dissatisfaction. Our conversation pointed out to me a few key points for good communication:
*listen because sometimes the other person may just need to let off some steam or emotions
*ask questions endeavoring to understand & not get the upper hand or to prove a point
*intimacy is directly proportional to honesty when genuine love is present
*do your best to be affirming even if you don’t feel like it
What are some more helpful ideas for constructive communication?
When I was in Angola last week with Saving Moses, I was trying to say goodbye to some of my new friends, the moms of the malnourished babies that we help to feed. In Angola, the official language is Portugese & it can sometimes be similar to Spanish (a language in which I’m kind of comfortable). As I was leaving, I was explaining in my mixed Portugese and Spanish efforts that we are leaving in the morning to go back home. The moms seemed to get REALLY excited & I thought they were just being very polite & friendly. After I kept telling lots of different moms about us going home the next day (in the Portugese / Spanish mix), our translator overhead me talking & quickly jumped in with lots of Portugese & explained something. Later he told me that I was telling everyone that we all, including each mom with whom I was speaking, were going to fly home – implying that I was going to bring all of them with me back to America. That was a BIG WHOOOPS!!! Thankfully, the moms understood that my language skills in Portugese are still in the developmental phase
I say all of this to ask you to think about letting the Holy Spirit be the translator for your life, rather than trying to understand life without His Help. Bad translation can lead to some very dangerous misunderstandings 🙂
We have had access to massive communication improvements over the past few decades. If you think about it, did you ever pull the phone cord out of the wall? In the ’80s, a tweet would have been “twit” mis-pronounced. And my idea of “wifi” in the ’70s was more like “hi-fi” in our house with speakers in every room so I could play records throughout the house at maximum volume. Communication has certainly improved, but we can all stand to make some improvements in our inter-personal communication, especially as it relates to conflict 🙂
Here are some tips that you might find useful in resolving conflict:
Understand the issue: get on the same page about what you’re discussing because often the center of the conflict comes from not discussing the same content
Separate what was said from what was heard (that’s not what I said, but that’s what was heard)
Consider the emotions & expectations associated w the conversation – these items can make communication hazy & ineffective if they’re not identified
Be patient & listen without asserting your opinion
Own your part of the communication challenge – blame sabotages communications & does nothing constructive
Be clear by removing subtleties, nuances & emotional telepathy; these efforts will only leave you frustrated
Although my husband & I share very similar values & priorities, we are quite different. Generally, that works out well for us. Sometimes if we’re not careful, however, we can let our differences be divisive rather than complementary – like the idea of acute & obtuse in Geometry ,)
But here’s my thinking on this topic of differences in relationship: it seems to me that some of the best relationships are not between people who are clones, but rather between people who allow for differences in personality & style. I think that having relationships that tolerate differences are very important because they can help you appreciate the many different ways that God loves you & the diversity of ways in which He communicates with us. Diversity can have some rich potential 🙂
I really like languages – they fascinate me in their ability to not merely communicate words but so much more than that. But i find it interesting that even when we communicate w someone who has our common mother language, there’s PLENTY of room for mis-communication. Here’s an interesting example: several years ago, i was talking w a young man in our church who was EXTREMELY upset. We were talking through a conflict that he was in & he made a statement that still haunts me today. He said something to the affect that it was the hearers 100% responsibility to understand him, regardless of his poor communication skill. This floored me & still makes me spin.
Communication is a 2 way street – the hearer & the speaker should work together to be on the same page. This is also true w God. I think there are alot of times that God speaks w us, but we mistranslate what He’s saying. This often happens because we don’t like what He’s saying or we didn’t listen for the whole message or we didn’t wait for Him to give us the context for application, or . . . . Personally, i think God speaks w us, ALOT. But let’s continually pray that He increases our abilities to understand Him & that He decreases our mistranslations 😉
I really like having spiritual conversations – not like theology driven, but more like a sincere dialogue about what God is saying at personal levels. I like hearing what God is saying to other people – I find that this often moves me closer to God. A few days ago, I got to stay up late talking w a friend about some questions & thoughts I’m having about God & I had the privilege to listen to her ideas, as well as her questions. I loved this time & found myself driving home & feeling deeply fulfilled & closer to God. I think there’s alot of value in such conversations both in our horizontal relationships & our relationship w God. Consider Paul’s words about Timothy & Epaphroditus in Philippians 2. He could say these great things about these 2 men because he had had multiple spiritual conversations w each of them.
What are some things you do (or can do) to foster spiritual conversations? Do you even want to have such conversations? Feel free to answer or not at your level of comfort. 🙂