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 = ______