Principles of Healthy Communication

By Rob Furlong

“The more heated the disagreement, the more our inner steam tank builds to the breaking point, and it is all we can do to keep a level head through the whole explosive episode.”

Every honest person reading the statement above by Clyde Murdock will agree they have struggled with this in times of “heated disagreement” including the person writing this column!

However, if we are truly prepared to make changes in the way we express our anger and communicate and commit to the process of change over the long haul, how and what we communicate will wonderfully transform our relationships.

Let me share with you what I call The Principles of Healthy Communication.

Be a listener. God gave us one mouth and two ears, so which should we use the most? Do not interrupt the other person and do not try to second guess what they are going to say – you will seldom be correct. Be polite and allow the other person to finish. “Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.”

Be an empathiser. As much as possible, try to put yourself into the other person’s shoes and honour the fact they are making themselves vulnerable by opening their hearts to you. “Put on a heart of kindness.”

Be accepting. Never treat the other person as being inferior to you. Accept them for who they are and do so with love, grace, and compassion. Remember, Jesus saw people in their distress and misery, and was moved with compassion for them. “Put on a heart of compassion.”

Be understanding. Remember the other person has a point of view, just like you! They may not be fully acquainted with all the facts, or they may have a faulty understanding – but so may you! “Put on a heart of humility.”

Be liberating. In other words, don’t try to control the situation or the other person. Don’t raise your voice, attempt to drown the other person out, or try to monopolise the conversation. And as we said last month, don’t explode, sulk (be silent) or resort to tears to win or make a point. “Put on a heart of gentleness.”

Be a clarifier. Ask questions to clarify a point made if necessary and don’t simply assume you know or understand exactly what has been said. Make sure the question/s you are asking are relevant and not merely an attempt to put your point of view across. “Put on a heart of wisdom.”

Be attentive. Give the person your undivided attention and interest while they speak to you. Body language is important here, so don’t fiddle with your watch, look out the window or “zone out.” And for goodness’ sake – put away your phone! “Put on a heart of discipline.”

Be forgiving. A frustrated husband once said that when he and his wife had an argument, she “became historical!” In other words, whenever they argued, she would remind him of all his past failures. Never refer back to past incidents that have been settled. It reveals a lack of forgiveness on your part, and it keeps the other person in a prison of failure. “Put on a heart of forgiveness.”

Be patient. Give the other person the gift of your time. Counselor David Augsburger once said that for some people, receiving the gift of another person’s time is how they deeply experience being loved. Give time for a meaningful conversation to take place, in relaxed circumstances. “Put on a heart of patience.”

Be a listener. Remember that the other person is a person – just like you – with hurts, joys, disappointments, and dreams. Love listens, whereas self seeks to be vindicated. When we can express ourselves to each other in a caring atmosphere, strong and lasting bonds are made.

Put on a heart of love and transform your communication…and your relationships!

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