Listen to Austin 360 Radio

The way we talk to others, the messages we seek, can build or break our relationships

By Gerry Tucker
Special to the American-Statesman
Gerry Tucker is a writer and a professional career and life coach and educator.

During this time of major upheaval, our values and commitments might be changing. This is a good time to focus on what’s important to us and our priorities, while being considerate of the values, beliefs and needs of others.

For many of us, that’s a difficult road to travel. As individuals we are used to taking care of our own needs and those of our family and friends. Yet, what is happening in our home, workplace, community and the world affects all of us.

Patience, communication, and understanding are needed as never before. There are things we can do to make this transition a little easier for everyone.

Effective Communication is still the rule. This is the time to remember all the rules — listen, respond, and reflect. Remember, “the heart of the Godly thinks carefully before speaking, the mouths of the wicked overflows with evil works.” (Proverbs 15:28).

There will always be issues about which we disagree and how you manage that disagreement is critical. Poor communication can impact a relationship, undermine trust and even affect your health. Each of us should determine whether communication about an issue is a priority.

I have limited my television viewing hours, reduced intake of negative news, and I consciously seek to give and receive positive messages.

I also have decided to refrain from participation in conversations that are not positive or solution-oriented or at least I try to steer conversations towards addressing solutions. “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” (Colossians 4:6).

I have limited my use of social media. It is an effective tool, but it rarely seeks to solve issues.

It will take all of us, working together, to find the middle ground on issues and give and take will be needed. The Bible counsels us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19). Effective communication is still the rule.

Find your voice. In trying to find some middle ground, it is also important that you find your voice on issues and speak out. In that process, let others maintain and express their concerns in their voice. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but it is heartfelt to effectively listen. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” (1 Peter 3:10)

If you find that you are raising your voice to get attention, the issue might not be about the person you are talking with but, about your own feelings and ideas. Take it down a notch. Each of us has a voice which expresses our needs, values and concerns. Share your voice on those issues that are important to you while respecting the opinions of others and then, let it go. Hanging onto issues only creates negative energy.

It’s not always easy to listen to voices that are different than yours. I had the habit of shutting down when I didn’t agree with something — that was not the right approach. Listen attentively, without screening as you listen, and the message might be received the way in which it was intended. You might even change your opinion when you listen and respect the opinions of others. Calm down, cool out and breathe.

Focus on the facts. If the ego would let us believe that we are not always right, we’d be much better off. However, our experiences lead us to believe our view is the best view and if others would listen, we could give them the best answers. If this is your approach, know that you might be wrong.

There is rarely an absolute right or wrong answer. The answer requires that we consider a lot of factors before passing judgment, and you just can’t always do that on the fly. After all, “spouting off before you listen to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” (Proverbs 18:13). Compromise and negotiation require us to focus on the facts as related to the situation and people involved, then collaboration allows us to make the best decision we can make under the circumstances.

Circumstances have and will continue to change. We, as individuals, must also change our approach to things and life which is hard to do when we hold on to absolutes. Indeed, “we will all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect.” (James 3:2) Now is the time to adjust our lens and be able to see the views of others while continuing the dialogue.

Communication, listening to each other, focusing on the facts, and using our heartfelt voice might help us find the middle ground to our differences.

Gerry J. Tucker is a freelance writer, author and career coach. She can be reached at gerrytucker@yahoo.com.