Proverbs 17:27 "The man who has knowledge restrains and is careful with his words, and a man of understanding and wisdom has a cool spirit."
Growing up, my report card often had a note from my teachers saying, "Kerri likes to talk too much."
As an adult, I'm still watching myself. My words are often many. As a parent, I lean toward over-talking the point when one of my kids needs a little direction.
My strength is connecting and relating to people, and the overuse of this is unrestrained words. As I grow older, I more appreciate the important role of silence and restraint, especially in my close relationships.
Right now culture's wisdom says, "Speak your truth!" We can see how this is displayed on the internet through comments on media, blogs, and social networking sites. We are blasted with unrestrained words. We feel the right to speak and be heard. We have forgotten God's wisdom on the topic, "Be careful with your words and have a cool spirit".
We can establish that it can be better to not give out our "opinions and answers". As a mom to four kids, I think parenthood is a perfect example of the wisdom of applying knowledgable restraint. When parents are constantly in teach-mode, children's brains have less opportunity to engage in creative, critical thinking. Fewer words that are carefully chosen benefits everyone.
When we are in disagreement or conflict, careful words bring calm, confidence, and compassion into the situation. Knowledge isn't used to demolish or destroy, but rather used to connect, relate, and speak words that help everyone.
What about men or women who are just finding their voice? If you've been silenced by others because of your position (adult vs child, boss vs employee) gender, or if you've been bullied into a quiet reservation, be encouraged. As an equal image-bearer of God, you absolutely have the right to speak.
A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word Proverbs 15:23
Its not for others to determine what we can or cannot say or how we should say it. Each of us bears the responsibility for our words. But God recommends that we speak out of our understanding and our knowledge.
We need to communicate to others with empathy. It sounds basic and elementary, but I promise that most people don't do this. I promise that if you do, you will have less stress internally, and less conflict with others. Some people are efficient at avoiding external conflict, by bundling it up and storing it inside of themselves. When we approach others in a state of empathy, conflict, as it applies to us, dissolves.
Empathy in communication requires us to first define the lines of our self.
It sounds like this:
This is how I am feeling. The other person is having feelings, too. I can be here, care and understand without stepping into their emotional state.
I have my own issues. The other person has issues, too. I can listen and determine with wisdom the best response without taking on their issues.
Empathy requires us to see them for who they are.
This person is not more or less important to God. We are both (regardless of actions, beliefs, or birth) image bearers if God.
I can agree, disagree, speak and listen while loving this person.
Empathy requires us to understand them positionally.
Listen and watch to understand where they are coming from and what base core thing they want. This is different than merely understanding their argument and coming to our own judgments about it.
Does this person right now want
1. To feel in command and not coerced?
2. To feel heard and know their intentions are understood?
3. To feel safe and assured they are accepted?
4. To feel correct and in control?
Our words are powerful, and the absence of words can be powerful, as well. We communicate understanding with our tone, gestures, expressions, and actions. The next time you are in a conversation that could go down a negative path, try communicating with empathy. Establish your lines, affirm everyone's worth, and try to see where this person is coming from.
It just so happens, that I have a vast collection of personal stories that I can share as examples of how these principles work. As a person who by nature talks much, and as one who still has a lot to learn, I am a treasure trove of examples.
The other day, my husband and I (who are in many ways opposite in communication/personality style), approached a job at home differently. In my frustration, my mind and mouth jumped onto the familiar track of talking, explaining, and over-expressing. His behavior was not aligned with my goals or how I was approaching this day. I guess you could say, I was very irritated. I could feel my stress rising, which now I use as my cue to slow down, step back, check where I am and decide what I want to do next. My thinking process didn't flow like bullet points, but for clarity sake, I'll write it out as if it did.
Then, I spoke with careful restraint. "I don't want to push you, control the process, or demand how you do things, and I won't do that today. I believe I need assurance that you agree with the timeline and understand why it's really important to me that we get it done."
Direct and concise language is exactly what he needed. Affirming his self-autonomy diffused his stress. Assurance and understanding are exactly what I needed. I then acted "as if" everything that was communicated would come to pass, and made the choice to relax and let go.
The beautiful thing about communicating with empathy is that no matter how far we've gone down the wrong track, we can stop and move onto the right track. Would you like to learn more about how to communicate with empathy? As a Certified Human Behavior Consultant, I can help you understand yourself and others in ways that transform how you communicate and navigate difficult conversations, and lead your life successfully.