When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! If you add the right ingredients, the same transformation may occur in your communication with a loved one. Practice following this easy recipe and taste the sweetness of reconciling painful differences.
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
Confront: When one of you feels sour (hurt, frustrated or unjustly treated), don’t hold it in. Communicate feelings (anger or unmet need) by squeezing out the truth in a loving, non-accusatory way.
- Share the problem using “I” statements. “I’m feeling betrayed. Would you be willing to listen?”
- Describe only the upsetting words or behavior without criticizing character.
- Do not accuse, belittle, call names or criticize.
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.… ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:15, 26).
Comply: The person being confronted indicates a willingness to listen (to receive the rebuke without becoming angry or defensive) and sincerely seeks to hear the other’s pain.
- Respond with a willingness to give undivided attention. “Yes, I will listen.”
- Do not interrupt. Hear the problem to the “last drop.”
- Above all, don’t make excuses or become defensive.
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
Confirm: The listener now paraphrases the problem back (repeats what is heard) without reacting negatively.
- Affirm what is being said. “You are saying you felt betrayed last night when I did not defend you? Is this correct?”
- Agreement with the facts is not necessary.
- Ask if your understanding of the problem is correct.
“He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise” (Proverbs 15:31).
Change: After feelings have been delivered and received, the hurting one is allowed to request a change in behavior. Willingness to listen and change behavior becomes the sweet ingredient for developing intimacy in the relationship.
- Injured one makes a request. “When someone criticizes me in front of you, would you be willing to express emotional support by making a comment on my behalf?”
- Listener identifies some acceptable responses for use in the future.
- Listener is willing to please the other with a commitment to change.
“A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil” (Proverbs 13:19).
[print_link] [email_link] [this series is largely based on my reading of Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Communication: The Heart of the Matter. Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart]