“Listen before you answer. If you don’t, you are being stupid and insulting” (Proverbs 18:13 TEV). To really communicate, you must give up three things:
1. You must give up your assumptions. We get into trouble when we start assuming we understand the meaning of what people say to us. The truth is everything you hear goes through a filter. Your filter is determined by your past experiences and your unique personality. You may not be hearing what they are really saying. Therefore, it is smart (and safe) to ask for clarification: “Listen before you answer. If you don’t, you are being stupid and insulting” (Proverbs 18:13 TEV).
2. You must give up your accusations. You never get your point across by being cross. Anger and sarcasm only make people defensive and that kills communication. There are four common forms of accusation:
• Exaggerating, such as making sweeping generalities like “You never,” or “You always.”
• Labeling, such as derogatory name-calling. Labeling never changes anyone. It only reinforces the negative behavior.
• Playing historian, such as bringing up past failures, mistakes, and broken promises.
• Asking loaded questions, ones that really can’t be answered, such as, “Can’t you do anything right?”
The Bible says, “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you” (Ephesians 4:29 TEV).
3. You must give up your apprehensions. Fear prevents honest communication. It causes us to conceal our true feelings and fail to confront the real issues. The two most common apprehensions are: the fear of failure and the fear of rejection. But when you face your fear and risk being honest, then real communication can happen. Freedom is the result of openness. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32 TEV).