Effective communication can be tricky. When I worked as an office manager, there’d be days that I’d find myself replaying conversations in my head. I’d wonder, “Did I handle that well? Did I say the right thing, or should I have said ‘X’ instead? Was I right to have that tough conversation with that person, or should I have let the situation slide? Am I being a micro manager, or a good teacher?”
A way to evaluate our actions is to reflect upon the condition of our hearts. In Luke 6:45, Jesus says:
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
To help with this reflection, here are three questions to ask yourself about a previous or impending conversation. While these questions can be used after-the-fact, I encourage you to use them prior to having the encounter.
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to react to an incident out of anger or frustration. “How could Susan not come to the mandatory meeting? She didn’t call or anything! This is inexcusable!” You’re tempted to confront Susan and give her a piece of your mind. In other cases, you may be influenced by sadness. Perhaps you just professed your secret love to a special someone whom you’ve known for years. Instead of reciprocating, they say, “Thanks, but I think we should just be friends.” Feeling rejected, you re-examine the former love interest and compile a list of flaws, wanting to use them to inflict emotional pain on the one who hurt you.
When we’re angry, frustrated, hurt, or sad, it’s easy to make impulsive decisions based on our emotions. If a situation prompts these feelings, I encourage you to think before engaging. This can be tough, but it’s worth it. Wait for the edge to subside and remember that you’re speaking to a person–a valuable individual created by God. Then, address the situation from a place of love, seeking a solution with the other’s best interest in mind.
Although it might be hard–and look ugly at times–it’s important to be honest with yourself about your motivation. Is your intention to make the other person feel guilty? Do you want to hurt them to the same extent they hurt you? Do you want to make them feel sorry?
I find this question especially helpful before I have a difficult conversation. Considering my intentions helps me make sure my heart is in the right place. What am I honestly looking to accomplish through my actions? If the answer isn’t positive, I know I’m not ready to engage.
If we have pure intentions, it will be evident in how we handle a situation. Perhaps I’m a manager and an employee made an accounting mistake. My discussion with the employee could make them feel insecure and awful if my intent is to “scold” them. On the other hand, if my intent is to help them recognize the error, learn how to correct it, and have a plan to avoid the same mistake in the future, I’ll approach my team member with a different attitude and energy. I will seek to address the issue while building my team member’s confidence. Now, instead of the individual feeling attacked and frustrated, they can feel empowered and valued.
How would you prefer to be treated? If the other person was a second you, how would you address them? Would you approach the situation differently? Treat others with respect and care, even when it seems they don’t deserve it. God has given us grace; let’s extend that grace to others and love our neighbors as ourselves.
Communication can be an area of struggle and great opportunity. When done effectively, you can uplift, inspire, encourage, train, teach, love, impart wisdom, and more. Our words have the power to build up or tear down.
In Ephesians 4:29, it says:
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 we communicate, it’s not only about the words we say, but how the other person receives them. Are you more likely to accept someone’s thoughts or feedback when they’re attacking you, or when it’s evident that they truly care about you? Next time you need to resolve conflict or have an important conversation, reflect on these questions. Evaluate the condition of your heart, and when it’s in the right place, proceed with your conversation. The outcome will be worth the effort.