Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Speaking in the Here and Now: A Communicating Basic

"I can't believe it! You just never listen, do you?" "You always leave your clothes laying around. Can't you put things in the hamper just once?" "You're just like your father. You both think the world revolves around you."

Have you ever heard a statement like one of these? Have you said one recently? Most of us have done one or the other or both. We or someone we know gets mad and out come words that are horribly unfair, not ever totally true and which stymie any meaningful discussion after that.

Why? Because statements like the ones above are not spoken in the here and now. Comments that use the words always or never or that compare or call people names are not about the present. Instead they imply things about the other person's character by calling up the past or predicting the future. They say, this is the way you are and you will never change. They imply things about the other's personhood that will probably not change.

Who wants to continue a discussion like that? If we hear enough put downs, insinuations about who we are and implications that we'll never be any different, we'll eventually quit trying to have intimate discussions. We'll get busy with other things, stay silent, change the subject or simply try to keep things nice. And while relationships can go on that way for awhile, they eventually implode or become shallow at best.

There's a better way!

Learn to speak in the here and now. Here's an example. Carrie is mad at Ryan about his changing of their plans last minute and not letting her know. He put her on the spot in trying to rearrange babysitting, making last phone calls and having her hopes dashed because they weren't going to do what they had planned on together.

She could say and might feel like saying, "I can't believe you would pull this stunt on me again! You never think about me. It's all about you, isn't it? You can't even make a stinking phone call and ask me what I think. Can't you just once follow through on something and keep your word?"

However, she can say the same thing but keep her comments in the hear and now: "Ryan, I have to tell you I'm really confused and pretty angry right now because last minute you're changing the very plans we made this morning and you didn't let me know. I have to tell you that I'm really disappointed that we can't go out and it's really made for a lot of hassle to not know about this sooner."

Do you see the difference? The first one focuses on the other person's character more than the issue. The second response aims at only the present situation including Carrie's feelings about it. Both ways of communicating express the emotion but it's not directed at the person as much as the circumstances. The second response is more likely than the first to end in understanding and resolution even though the situation is still a challenging one.

Don't hamstring your conversations by even unintentionally attacking your mate, friend or child's character. Take a look today at your responses, especially when you're upset. Do you speak in the here and now or do you imply things about their character. If you need to, step back, slow down and measure your response first before you get mad.

These same concepts apply to our conversations with our kids. Instead of, "Morgan, you're just never going to listen to me are you?" why not try, "Morgan, I'm very irritated that you're not listening to me right now." A small difference in words with huge implications.

As I've said before our words have power. The old names will never hurt me maxim is simply untrue. Name-calling or implications about character do hurt! As Ephesians 4:15 says, speak the truth, but speak it in love!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

1 comment:

  1. Gary...thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and life experience! More often than not, what you write is EXACTLY what I need to hear!!