Happy New Year, Speak Lifers! Many of us will head back to work and school this week making new commitments and resolutions. Among other things, I suspect that many of us have made commitments to embrace new habits like saving money and exercising more, and eat less. As we make these and other commitments, let’s take some time to embrace helpful habits in our communication and interpersonal skills. Here are five things to do in 2016.
1. Accept I can be wrong
Who likes to be wrong? I know I don’t. To be wrong is to acknowledge that we are flawed and imperfect. But, when we release the expectation of perfection, it takes pressure off us and we don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I watch my older daughter get frustrated when her sister will not see the error in her thinking. Sometimes the younger one is simply wrong—it’s not a perception or style issue. But, instead of going back and forth with her sister, I tell my older daughter, “Let it go.” That is what we have to do sometimes. Just let it go. But, also remember, that our way of thinking is not the only “right” way of thinking.
- Stop being defensive
When we give up the need to be right, we don’t have to be defensive. Our natural inclination is to be defensive when we have been accused of something we believe is false (You’ve been gossiped about); guilty of something that is true (You were caught in a lie) or when our ideas or suggestions are not considered. We take a defensive posture to defend our reputation and character, but often we are simply preserving our ego and pride. It’s hard to be like Jesus, but he offers the best model when he never responded to his critics leading up to his Crucifixion. The next time you are tempted to defend yourself, consider what would happen if you said nothing.
- Focus on the strengths of others
We all have flaws. We all are imperfect. It is disappointing when those close to us come up short. And, of course, those whom we love simply get on our nerves with some of their flaws. But, when we focus on their flaws, we fail to see their strengths. We fail to see what they bring to the relationship. We also fail to see their frailties as children of God with shortcomings, insecurities, who are only made perfect in Him—just like us.
- Don’t be a gossip
Once we stop focusing on the flaws, there is no need to gossip. Gossip feeds an insatiable appetite. The only way to get rid of it is to starve it. But ultimately, we have to ask ourselves what does our need to participate in gossip say about ourselves. Do we feel better about our sin because we perceive someone else’s to be greater? Cut this habit cold turkey. When someone brings you gossip, don’t chime in. Change the subject. If the person still doesn’t take the hint, ask them not to bring this kind of talk to you. Of course, make sure you are not the carrier of gossip.
- Learn to forgive
This is a hard one, especially when we have been violated in some way. It is certainly easier said than done. As Christians, we are commanded to forgive. But, the Bible never says it is supposed to be easy. We don’t forgive the transgressor because he or she deserves it. We extend the same grace to him or her as Jesus does for us. If we struggle with this concept, remember that forgiveness is also selfish. In an article I read last year, it stated that unforgiveness has a physiological reaction on our bodies. It can literally make us sick. If you are not at the point of forgiving a person because Jesus asks us, start with forgiveness as an act of self-preservation.
For all of these habits, we have to be intentional about getting rid of them. It just doesn’t happen. Just like we are making a commitment to eat less sugar and carbs, we have to make the same commitment in our interpersonal relationships. And just like most of us will fall of the New Year’s resolution wagon, we will also fall off this wagon until it becomes a part of who we are. I thank God for new opportunities to start over and do better in 2016!
Make your commitment today to get rid of these and other bad communication habits. Start your own Communication Matters bible study. Find out more here.