Have you ever been in the middle of a fight (or argument) and after awhile forgotten what you were fighting about? I know we have. We’ve gotten so wrapped up in wanting to be heard that the issue became secondary. And so we really were fighting about the way we were fighting.
This is such a common occurrence that people often end up in counseling precisely for this issue. They cannot even see what is going on and they label it “lack of communication.” And in a sense they are correct in that primary messages are not being acknowledged. But really what is going on is that there is a lack of agreement – and this is what is being labeled a communication problem.
So what can we do about it? Have some rules and principles that we adhere to in a conflict.
- Listen first! Make sure that you understand the other person completely. This does not mean that you are giving tacit approval. You do not have to agree. But you do need to hear them out. Then you can acknowledge their point of view and let them know that you do not agree (assuming that you don’t).
- Calm yourself. You may fear that you are losing power by listening, but you are not. Tell yourself that you are just listening and that you will have a turn. Losing your temper will only prolong the problem and escalate the drama.
- Stay on task. Even though the other person might try to take the conversation in multiple directions, stay with the original issue and try to be as brief as possible.
- Take a break if necessary. But come back to the issue in a timely manner. The goal is to resolve the problem or come to a good compromise (or make peace with it).
- Above all, do not hurt the people you care about. Don’t use language or make statements that you will later regret.
Job 19:2 “How long will you torment me and crush me with words?”