By Rob Furlong
Author Tim La Haye once wrote:
“As long as two people can keep the lines of communication open and freely express their feelings, differences can be resolved.”
We have been exploring anger this year and the negative effect it has on relationships when expressed poorly or inappropriately; this month I want to talk about the way in which negative anger kills communication between people and what we can do about it.
There are three, basic communication killers.
Explosion. We have all experienced this one. You raise an issue with someone, and they immediately explode in a tirade of angry words and emotion. Explosion is a defense mechanism, and the message is loud and clear: “Stay away from me; my failure is being exposed at this moment and I do not wish to discuss this with you!”
People who explode succeed in keeping others at an arm’s distance and over many years, real communication is destroyed because those around them opt for false peace as a way of keeping the exploder happy.
Tears. While not as volatile as exploding, tears are just as effective at killing communication. You know the drill. You raise an issue and then you are suddenly blindsided by the other person because they have burst into tears!
It usually goes something like this: “You have really hurt me with what you have said. You have accused me of…(you haven’t!)…and I don’t like the way you’re looking at me!” (Hurt person then erupts in tears.)
I’m not saying all tears are wrong, but when people make this their habitual response, there is a problem. People avoid raising issues for fear of hurting the person with the inevitable result of choking open communication to death.
Silence. You know you have done something wrong, and the other person is angry with you for one simple reason – they are not talking to you!
I had plenty of experience with this growing up because my Dad would go for several days without talking to me or my brothers for something we had either done or failed to do.
It was excruciating. We all knew he was angry, but we didn’t know what he was angry about – we had to figure it out and then apologise. Only then would communication be restored.
Angry silence is devastating to communication and a dreadfully immature way to try and make a point to another person.
Think about it. Isn’t it far better to simply say to the other person, “I didn’t appreciate…I would prefer you did…” instead of freezing them out with the “Cone of Silence?”
Explosion, tears, and silence do not “keep the lines of communication open” and they most certainly do not encourage people “to freely express their feelings”.
As a result, problems, issues, and differences are never resolved.
How can we change this?
Pray first. Ask God to prepare the hearts of everyone involved in the conversation.
Plan the right time. Ask the other person for permission to have the conversation and agree on a time when you will not be distracted by other concerns.
Speak the truth in love. Don’t shy away from telling the truth, but do it in a gracious, sensitive, and non-accusatory way.
Don’t lose your temper. (See “explosion” above!) Remember the wisdom of Solomon, “A gentle answer turns away wrath” and “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit (better) than he who captures a city.”
Allow for reaction time. Give the other person time to take in what you have said and allow them to respond to it. Hopefully it won’t be with explosion, tears, or silence! (This is another reason to pray before the conversation.)
Commit the problem to God. Pray about it together and seek His solution.
Say goodbye to angry responses and open the door to healthy communication!