"She doesn't listen to a word I say. When I try to have a normal conversation with her, she shuts down, and them blabs on Facebook! I don't want to be in a marriage like this."
I was counseling a couple a while ago that was quite entertaining to watch. They got into a heated debate, and I am sure their blood pressure was high! Before long, their voices started raising and the non-verbal cues grew in intensity. And while they argued, they worked around the house, faster and faster. My wife and I stood there in their kitchen and kept looking at each other. We were both silently saying the same thing, "This couple completely agrees with one another!" After watching that argument for about ten minutes, I interjected, "You guys do know that you agree with one another, and that you are doing a classic communication bypass." We all ended up laughing, although this continues to be a problem for them.
People come from such different backgrounds, and carry such different baggage that it is a miracle that anyone has friends or is still married!! Communication is near impossible. We need all the help we can get. Also, communication is such a big deal, that it is important to review effective communication skills from time to time. I would say that this is one of the top problems that I see in counseling.
So what are some Biblical Principles for effective communication? I have consolidated what the Bible says into some key principles. Hopefully these will help you to become an effective communicator. God's word is living and active; sufficient for life and godliness. So grab your Bible, and let's dig in.
Here are some steps and principles to help you become more like Jesus in this area:
Step #1: Before you talk, consider:
Before brining up a problem, consider these:
Do I have the facts right? (Proverbs 18:13) To answer before listening-that is folly and shame. James 1:19-20, albeit talking about listening to God's word, also draws an important principle in life. "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." To use a street proverb, "God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason."
Should love cover it? (1 Peter 4:8) "Love one another deeply (that would be enough to work on for a lifetime!!) because love covers over a multitude of sins."
Is my timing right? (Proverbs 15:23)
Is my attitude right? (Ephesians 4:15)
Are my words loving, life giving (Ephesians 1:15)
Have I prayed for God's help? (Proverbs 3:5)
A key verse to help counselors listen well is Proverbs 18:17- Nothing worse than doing couples counseling without the couple there. He said, she said makes what was really said near impossible to discover. We will not put all the weight on one side of the story, ever!
Step #2: When it is time to talk, do this:
Because we are new creations in Jesus, let us put on Christ:
Ephesians 4:20-32 - That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
1. Be Honest
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
1 John is a great book of the Bible in dealing with honesty! It talks much about being in the light. Another good verse is Proverbs 6:16-17- God hates a lying tongue. So let us put aside all falsehood and speak truthfully! Nothing is more dizzying than the Tilt-a-Whirl and a liar. Liars words are like a rollercoaster that twists and turns and confuses. In fact, Satan is called the Father of Lies (John 8:44). Lies hurt. Truth gives us a healthy place in which to help out. So make sure that you are being honest. Quit playing games and deceiving one another! Better a messed up person who is honest than a messed up person who is deceptive in order to save face. Don't be deceptive and make another ever pull the truth out of you, like a child who get's caught sneaking candy. Don't let fear keep you from admitting fault. In fact, live in such a way that you don't need to hide in the shadows, don't be shady.
2. Keep Current
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."
1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love does not keep a record of wrong. If you have an issue with someone, you will need to make a few choices. 1) is this a sin against you or annoyance?, 2) are they doing something that is destructive, or is it an odd personality thing? 3) Is this something I need to let love sweep away or something that I need to address? If it is something you need to address, that is making you angry, you need to address it before a root of bitterness takes root. You need to guard your heart. So you will need to address this with the person, but in accordance with the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-26; 2 Timothy 2:22-26). In other words, be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle, controlled, and faithful to God and to that person.
And, then, after you reconcile, forget about it. Let it die away and don't bring it up again. Move on.
What if the person does not listen to you? We keep bitterness away by confronting the person and then give room for the spirit to work, on His timing.
3. Attack the problem, not the person
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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Ad Hominem- gotta love it. If you ever took debate or Logic classes, you know this word. At the person is not what we want to do because people are NEVER the enemy, and are made in God's image and are precious to him. We attack enemies (Satan) not people. This would include using hyperbole, "You never...." or "You always..." Keep problem focused. Address the issue at hand. This is tough when you are mad at the person, but this is healthy. And if someone attacks you, be like Jesus (Isaiah 53:7).
Unwholesome talk is talk that is destructive. Neil Anderson, in his book, "Stomping Out the Darkness" says, "Be a part of God's construction crew, not Satan's wrecking crew". James 3:1-12 teaches alot about having whole tongues. People have a lot of baggage, are in process, and are going through a lot. Jesus is very sympathetic to this, and understands that people are in process (Hebrews 4:14-16). Let us be gentle with people, and not attack them. In fact, sometimes Satan deceives people, taking them captive to do his destructive will (2 Timothy 2:22-26, 2 Corinthians 4:4). Give em a break and deal with the issue.
4. Act, Don't react
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Do you think that Paul knew that people could be challenging sometime? Sure he did. So why did he say this? Because he knows who the enemy is (Ephesians 6:12). He spent years in prison, was constantly maligned by the Judaizers, and had several speak against him.
It is easy to be driven by the flesh toward people, it is natural. But we are more than natural, we are born of the Spirit too! So let us walk in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-26). Let us rise above the drama and the emotions of others and act. Moved out of love. Taking the initiative, even if it is their sin (Matthew 5:23-24).
When we do these things, we will stand above reproach. When we do these things, people will notice and either be repelled by the light, or drawn to Jesus through you. When we understand these principles, we will be the type of person that 1 Peter 1:22 talks about.
Life is tough, relationships are messy. Jesus never promised an easy life. Furthermore, we too sin, and Jesus is in the process of making us holy as we are already holy. Revenge is hard to reserve for the Lord, Jesus gets that. But let's step up as a people and live the way Jesus wants us to live, even if others don't. When I was a teen, and in the throws of peer-pressure, I saw a poster, and ended up putting it on my wall. It said, "Stand up for what is right, even if you stand alone." People like Daniel, Hanahiah, Mishael, and Azariah did so. People like Moses, Stephen, Paul, and Jesus did so. And therefore, so can we. Let's step up and live larger than the drama!
In the movie, "Night at the Museum" Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), saw Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) get slapped by a little monkey. Then he saw Larry slap the little monkey back. The monkey and Larry kept slapping one another back and forth. After a little bit of this nonsense, Teddy said, "Good L... Lawrence, why are you slapping a monkey?" Teddy later asks him, "Who is evolved?" And should know better. We are like this. We are more than an animal, more than flesh. Let's rise above this and be strong in the Lord as we love on, walk with and interact with others.
The first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.