“Let’s Get Ready to Rumble! — Fighting Fair in Relationships” – Part 2

This week I wanted to continue this blog on resolving issues in relationships.  Whether it’s your marriage, your friendship, or working relationships, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to handle issues and disagreements.  Some of you who read part one might take exception to my use of the word “fighting” that I used in the title of the blog. Please understand that I am not promoting “knock down drag out” fights within relationships.  Ask yourself this question,  “Have I ever had a “knock-down-drag-out” fight with my spouse, friend, or co-worker?  Answer honestly!  The bottom line is this . . .  I just like “catchy” titles that reach out and grab me.

Now, picking up where we left off last time . . . the first side to the Communication Pliers are the words that come out of my mouth, but there’s a second side just like there is to a set of pliers . . .

Side 2 = Focused Communication – James 1:19

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” NIV

The word James uses here for “quick”, Tachus has the idea of having a readiness to listen. The word, “Angry,” Orge here is an explosive anger. Word picture = volcanic eruption.  One big problem in most marriages is neither spouse has the attitude of being ready to listen. Everybody wants to be heard, but nobody wants to listen. Both speaking and listening are equally important for healthy communication and a growing relationship.

In his marital enrichment program, Prepare/Enrich, Dr. David Olson says, “Good communication depends on you carefully listening to another person. Active listening involves listening attentively without interruption . . . .” This focused communication includes non-verbal communication like body language, eye contact, and facial expressions with your spouse, or friend as he/she is speaking to you. Watching television while your partner is speaking with you is not focused communication.

June Hunt makes this astute observation, “Listening is easy to fake, attentiveness is simple to pretend, but real listening requires effort. Our self-centered tendency is to tune others out and our own thoughts in. We tend to muse and reminisce or think about what we are going to say next. As you begin to understand that God, more often than not, communicates to you through the words of others (and through your words to others), your heart will desire to be an attentive listener.”

iStock_000010870688SmallWhen James says, “Everyone should be quick to listen,” what does that mean?

1. Listen with Focused attention.

• Don’t interrupt!

• Don’t let emotions of anger override your thinking.

• Don’t begin thinking of how you are going to respond.

• Don’t be quick to answer. James 1:19

• Do . . . Hear feelings that are being expressed (look beyond the content to the context).

• Do . . . Try to empathize with the feelings of the other.

• Do . . . Reflect (repeat or paraphrase, when appropriate) what is being said and/or felt.

• Do . . . Maintain eye contact. Prov 18:13

2. Listen without Judging.

• Don’t criticize.

• Don’t show contempt or disgust.

• Don’t communicate your opinions.

• Don’t react in ways that will put another in a defensive position. James 1:19

• Do . . . Allow another to grumble and complain.

• Do . . . Allow expression of negative feelings.

• Do . . . Release your own ideas of what is right.

• Do . . . Recognize that you also can be negative and discontented. Rom 2:1

3. Listen without dispensing Advice.

• Don’t give premature answers.

• Don’t repeat platitudes and clichés.

• Don’t quote Scripture.

• Don’t laugh or make fun of another’s feelings. Prov 10:19

• Do . . . Take seriously the words of another.

• Do . . . Help others to discover their own answers.

• Do . . . Realize that attentive listening is more important than talking.

• Do . . . Realize that most people are not really seeking advice. Prov 17:28

4. Listen without becoming Defensive.

• Don’t expect others to have your point of view.

• Don’t argue when you disagree with what is being said.

• Don’t return an insult with an insult.

• Don’t avoid the negative feedback of others. Prov 19:11

• Do . . . Display acceptance even when you disagree with another’s words.

• Do . . . Look for the kernel of truth when confronted by another.

• Do . . . Focus on points of agreement instead of differences.

• Do . . . Seek to understand how your emotions are affecting your communication. Seek to understand, not just to be understood. 1 Peter 3:8-9 

On the topic of “focused communication” please rate yourself and your partner, friend, co-worker on a scale of 1-5.

1 = “Can’t get any worse” and 5 = “Can’t get any better”

Yourself = _____

Partner/friend/co-worker = ______


“Let’s Get Ready to Rumble! — Fighting Fair in Relationships”

Angry couple mad at each otherEach one of us begins to develop a style of handling conflict at an early age. Your personal way of fighting evolves out of your natural instincts, your personality and your early family dynamics. Many of us are unable to defuse conflict because we are repeating the extreme patterns of childhood . . . attacking and confrontational or evasive and avoiding. Either strategy fails to appropriate the grace that is available to a child of God.  Marital conflict left unresolved always leads to bitterness that is toxic to the relationship.  Hebrews 12:15 – “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” NIV  Which kind of “fighting style” do you possess?  Are you attacking and confrontational like a shark?  Or  maybe you are evasive and avoiding much like a turtle?  Once you understand your own fighting style and that of your partner, you are ready to learn to lay down your weapons and pick up some tools to aid in “fighting fair.”

Over the next several weeks I want to pass along a couple of tools that are indispensable in resolving issues in healthy ways.  As a matter of fact, these two tools go “hand-in-glove” when it comes to fighting fair in our relationships.

This week, let’s begin looking at the first tool . . .I call it our Communication Pliers.  Just like there are two sides to a pair of pliers, there are two sides which make up our communication: The verbal side & the non-verbal side. We can find these two sides mentioned in Ephesians 4:29 and James 1:19.

Let’s start with the verbal side of our communication and consider Paul’s advice in Ephesians 4:29,  “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.” NIV  The verbal side of our communication has two sides as well, unwholesome and wholesome.  Paul begins with the unwholesome side as he uses the word for “unwholesome,” Sapros.  The word picture here is “to putrefy” and means to be rotten or worthless. Rotten, worthless words are words that hurt, words that wound, words that bite. “Unwholesome words” are words that are used as weapons on others.  Next, Paul transitions to wholesome words by saying,   “. . . but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

If we are going to learn to “fight fair” we must learn to use words that are “helpful,” “building,” and words that “benefit those who listen,” or wholesome words.

What do wholesome words look like?  Glad you asked. . .

1. Wholesome words are Truthful words.  Proverbs 12:22 – “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.” NIV

2. Wholesome words are Life giving words.  Proverbs 18:21 – “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” NIV

3. Wholesome words are Encouraging words.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 — “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up . . . .” NIV

4. Wholesome words are Investing words.  Proverbs 12:14 – “From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him.” NIV

5. Wholesome words are Loving words.  1 Corinthians 13:1 – “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” NIV

How would you describe your communication with your spouse, friend, relative, or co-worker during this past week?  Wholesome  or Unwholesome

If you used unwholesome words, how could you edit your last conversation with your spouse, friend, relative, or co-worker to transition your words from being unwholesome to wholesome?

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