19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
I stood at the checkout counter of the market down the street from my Aunt's apartment in Rome. The lady clearly spoke only Italian, and while I wasn't so shabby in that tongue, we were clearly not speaking each others language. I was pointing to my map, hoping that she'd get the jist, and she very well could have, but I had no clue what she was trying to say.
Each of us have our own unique way of processing and communicating to others. It's built by an accumulation of culture, gender, age, family background, and social circles. It can be influenced greatly by our wounds, insecurities, and false beliefs. Pair that together with Satan's intent to sabotage relationships, and there seems to be little hope for clear communication.
So how do we stop miscommunication? Here are a few lessons I've learned (the hard way.)
- Don't make a snap judgement. We each bring our own set of life rule books to the table, and more often than not they won't match up. But that doesn't mean the other person is wrong. It just means they are different.
- Check your heart and refrain from a knee jerk response. I'm notorious for reacting right away and everytime, it's ended in disaster! Leave the room, get off the phone, or answer that email the next day. More damage is done when we react our of hurt, than when we take the time to assess the situation.
- Listen. Really listen. Strip away the insecurities, fears, and lies you may be believing about that person and their heart towards you. These things color the way we receive. Taking them away helps us truly see the other person's heart.
- Learn to Empathize. There's a fine line between empathy and sympathy, but empathy is the venue through which we can see another's perspective. Empathy can be a very handy translation device. You may not speak the same communication language, but it you can place yourself in their shoes, you may see something you didn't see before. Could it be that you over reacted or just couldn't see the other persons rulebook?
- Give Grace. Maybe they've just been told bad news, maybe their work day didn't go as planned, or they've got personal issues that color their behavior. Any way you slice it, grace covers a multitude of sins.
- Honor the other person. Part of honor is choosing to believe the best about that person. Satan plays on our past experiences, misrepresenting the truth and he would love for you to believe the very worst about the person in front of you. After all, if he can divide, he can conquer. It must then be our mission to uphold relationships and guard our hearts.