Category Archives: Communication

Emotionally Healthy Habits: Conflict

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I had just gotten back to the east coast from coordinating my uncle’s post-rehab care in Phoenix. I was tired and emotionally drained as I read an e-mail from my supervisor asking me to stay late the following day to interview candidates for our admin job. I responded to my supervisor with a very direct and factual e-mail about what my office hours were and what my life was like after hours (owning a business). He was angry for hours before finally calling me in to his office. At that point, he began to tell me that my e-mail had rubbed him the wrong way, that they had been very “accommodating” of my schedule this past year, and that he didn’t appreciate the tone of my e-mail. I responded only to what was appropriate: I apologized for any “tone” that might have come across and reiterated my inability to stay late. What could have been a larger argument was toned down because I chose to practice emotionally healthy habits in conflict.

Conflict is one of the hardest things for people to handle. In fact, I’m still looking for ways to improve my conflict resolution skills. But here are three ways I am always trying to improve my handling of one-on-one conflict:

  • Listen actively. This means not just hearing what the other person says, but listening with your heart. I didn’t speak much in the meeting with my supervisor because I wanted to listen to what he was saying, and because I didn’t want to say something I would regret. When I listened with my heart, I realized that I had hurt him with my directness. How did I know? Because when I apologized and assured him that I was not upset with him, he was fine! James 1:19 says that everyone should “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” You can’t talk and listen at the same time, so make listening your priority. And once you’ve listened, when you do speak, don’t be afraid to ask questions to clarify what the other person means. Listen to understand, not to respond.
  • Fight fair. Stay focused on the topic at hand. “You always do this” is not a fair statement about what is happening now. Make sure that you only address the present, not the past. When my boss noted that they had been so “accommodating” of my schedule over the year, I wanted to respond with some snarky comment. But I quickly realized that was not the issue, so I let it go. Part of fighting fair is also remaining as calm as possible. Do you like dealing with angry people? Few people do. No one likes to be attacked, physically or verbally. So treat people the way you want to be treated, especially in conflict. As Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Fight fair by staying focused on the present and remaining calm.
  • Consider your part. It takes two to tango, and two to engage in conflict. Is this the third or fourth person that has mentioned that you’ve hurt them in one specific way? Then perhaps what they are saying is truth. How are you feeling? This also affects how we treat others, so be aware of yourself! With my supervisor, I realized that being emotionally drained, I should not have responded via e-mail but instead I should’ve just spoken with him. I also realized that I was too direct and lacked positive emotion in my response. I even thought about ways I could have worded my e-mail that wouldn’t have come across so strong. I noted the latter to my boss as we were talking. Matthew 7:5 reminds us that we all have faults and issues; so before we start in on someone else’s, we need to check our own.

Conflict is uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be unhealthy! In fact, conflict is one of the healthiest things we can experience—if we practice emotionally healthy habits. So fight fair, listen actively, and consider your part the next time you have a conflict—and watch yourself grow exponentially!

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Porn—When You Don’t Get It

confusion by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

“How does she not get it?” I had a horrible fight with my mother today, and this is the question running through my mind. The long and short of it is that my uncle, who recently had a massive stroke and is requiring 24-hour care from my mom and sister, has been watching pornography non-stop on his computer for the past few weeks. Now, this is the same uncle who carelessly introduced me to pornography more than 25 years ago, so while not a surprise, it is unacceptable that he would do this in my mother’s house, where an eight-year-old girl lives 80% of the time. Naturally, considering my recovery, my disdain for pornography, and my ministry, I am furious, and I called and unleashed said fury on my mother. I made her cry in my passionate attempt to let her know she needed to take a stand for righteousness—something she has not done well in the past (she’s an S personality/servant gift to my D personality/prophet gift). But the call did not end well, and now I’m upset—because she doesn’t seem to understand.

If you’ve suffered from a pornography addiction, and you feel like people just don’t “get it” when it comes to porn, here’s a few things to remember:

  • People may not understand your pain. My mother did not notice how passionate and indignant I got when I first heard about the pornography debacle with my uncle. She is clueless about how my sister feels about him watching porn behind her as they sit in the living room. In addition, it seems my mom knows nothing about the effects of pornography on a person’s mind. I ask myself, “How can my mom not know, when I am so very open with everyone about my past addiction, when my own ministry seeks to end pornography?” I also wondered how she could be so calm and nonchalant about a situation that clearly has upset my sister and me. I felt like Jesus with the disciples—“Are you still so dull?” (Matt. 15:16). How come you don’t understand yet? Today’s conversation reminded me that she hasn’t suffered through this addiction. She barely even spoke about sex with me growing up. So of course she doesn’t “get it.” There are always going to be people who don’t understand some circumstance you’ve been through—or don’t want to admit they understand. The key is knowing that you have to…
  • Keep talking anyway. The more you talk about the issues you’ve had with porn, the more freedom you get. When you keep the truth hidden deep within yourself and you don’t address it with or acknowledge it to others, you remain a slave to your addiction. So keep talking! Perhaps my problem is that I have not talked with my mom enough about the pain that pornography caused in my life. Today, I told her that I yelled at her because I didn’t feel she ever thought this was important or urgent. This lack of urgency on her part made me feel unprotected, and I was afraid she was going to not protect the eight-year old that now lives with them. After our fight, I texted her a lengthy set of messages that included an apology and this text: “I love you. What I do not love is how pornography stole my childhood, my innocence, my freedom, my ability to have normal, loving relationships with the opposite sex.” I know that I have told my mom before about porn’s effects on me. But I said it again because hopefully one day she will gain some understanding about the addiction from which I’m still healing.

The Bible says, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.” Recovery from porn is a lifelong process, and you may have to help others get understanding about it from time to time. You may go about it the wrong way, or you may do it perfectly: the point is to just keep talking, so you and others can be blessed in the process!

DISC: Silent but Steady

DISC-logo-2014

image courtesy of Christian Coach Institute

She seemed to be very shy until you got to know her. But once I got to know her—and I did, she was quite talkative and open with me. She was a steady support to me, always offering to help in whatever way she possible could. She even would help in the sweetest ways I could think of—offering to do things for me that no one else would. She was constantly thinking of my feelings and tried not to hurt me, even if it meant she was hurt instead. In addition, she was the most reliable person of my group—even if she was working behind the scenes, you eventually knew she was there because of her loyalty and dependability. So who is she? She has many names—because she is every S I’ve ever known and worked with!

High S’s are team players who want to keep peace and stability in group settings, even if it is to their own personal detriment. Though your S’s may not be loud and dominant like your D’s or the center of attention like your I’s, the S’s are balanced and secure, providing much needed stability to every group dynamic. And here are a few important things to remember about the high S personality profile:

  • High S’s work best in a stable, secure environment…My former high S coworker had been in our office for 10 years—since she was 17 years old! She had loved what she was doing, but most importantly, she knew the office and the job very well and was very comfortable in doing it. It was to our benefit that she provided everything for our office, and she did so with a smile every day. She took care of every need in the office and knew how to do everything, and often did so in the background. This is your typical S: always accomplishing what needs to be done without being asked while being your all-around team player.
  • …but they do not adapt well to change. My former coworker had not been through many changes in the office until around the time I started. However, I noticed that her normally pleasant demeanor became terse and threatening when office policies and procedures began changing. In addition, when she chose to take a new job, the pressure of making a change after ten years in our office weighed heavily on her. In response to the pressure, she became increasingly unpleasant in her interactions and took every interaction personally. It was a rough transition for everyone.
  • In conflict, S’s tend to give in—unless their family or close friends are being targeted. S’s are seen as extremely loyal to their family and close friends; they may not fight back when they are targeted personally, but if someone attacks their family, they will respond like a D! In other situations, they may remain quiet or make choices that will bring peace to the situation. Unlike the I’s, an S’s main goal is security, so he will do whatever is necessary to bring peace, even if it means their own personal comfort is challenged. Like I’s, S’s are people pleasers, so in conflict, S’s will seek the greater good of others before themselves. My former coworker tended to be quiet in situations where she did not agree with the action being taken at work. However, when it came to her family, she was adamant and direct in defending them at every turn.

S’s certainly are not silent—but they are great listeners who are more concerned about other people than tasks being accomplished. Like a car’s engine, they are an integral part of a working team, making sure that everything runs smoothly, even if they aren’t being seen and heard. When working with S’s, it’s important to remember to give them plenty of time to change but also to encourage them to embrace change as an opportunity for growth. It will help them as well as you!

How do you help the S’s in your life navigate change? 

What’s Missing From Sex: Understanding (Part 2)

This blog series is following my church’s series, “What’s Missing From Sex” as my pastor preaches about a topic the church has mostly avoided. This particular post goes with the second sermon in the series and can be found on my church’s website here. I urge you to listen! The sermon begins about 18:00 minutes into the video.

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image courtesy of ponsulak / freedigitalphotos.net

I had been sitting in the car with him for about 10 minutes. I was in the driver’s seat, and God had put me there for a reason: He knew I couldn’t get in a good right hook or jab from the position I was in. And literally, that’s all I could think about at the moment—punching this jerk that was telling me about this new woman he was dating, which was funny, because he hadn’t yet broken up with me—AND he was still married! In a quiet moment between yelling, I realized something I had been too blind to see: this man never understood me or my intentions. He did not understand my love for Jesus, he did not understand how I wanted to be treated, and he did not understand my heart (all things that were my fault). Additionally, I also realized that I did not understand him or what he had really wanted from me—I had only understood what I wanted to know. We lacked understanding at its most basic level.

One of the biggest things that’s missing from sex these days is understanding. Not just understanding about what sex is and Who created it, but understanding your spouse and the marriage that you’ve entered. I certainly did not understand my ex above, and he did not understand me—which meant everything physical between us amounted to nothing except heartbreak and emptiness. However, to restore sex to what God intended, we must realize these three things:

  • Understanding in sex requires communication. One of the top three things married couples fight about is sex. It’s usually about every part of sex: from the frequency to the likes or dislikes. That’s why married couples must communicate with each other both inside the bedroom and outside. How can you understand someone if you’re not communicating with them? Of course, this is quite simple in some ways, quite complex in others. It means listening to your spouse and really hearing what they say—that can seem easy. But it also means understanding when your spouse feels “in the mood” and understanding when they don’t. It is why sex outside of the marriage bed—e.g., one night stands, empty relationships with no commitment, even pornography—often leaves us scarred.
  • Understanding in sex requires compassion. Again, your marriage outside of the bedroom will affect what happens inside the bedroom. Like communication, if you aren’t showing compassion outside of the bedroom walls, you likely won’t feel those same things within them. How do you respond to your spouse? How do you talk about your spouse to your friends, your children, your coworkers? How do you show your spouse you love him/her? How you treat your spouse, whether in private or in public, has an emotional impact on your sex life. When you unite yourself with someone physically through sex, you should show grace, mercy, and love in the most intimate of circumstances.
  • Understanding in sex requires communion. I’m not talking about the bread and wine that you might get if you attend church. I’m talking about the unity that comes with marriage. The Bible says that when a man leaves his parents, he and his wife are joined together and become one (Ephesians 5:31, Genesis 2:24). This oneness is not just a physical oneness, but it is a spiritual and emotional oneness as well. It means that you stop living just for yourself, you stop thinking just for your own needs, and you begin to seek understanding about the spouse to whom you have been joined.

Sex can’t be used as a thermostat to control your marriage, as my pastor noted, and it can’t be used as a scheme to get what you want in your marriage. Instead, sex should complement your marriage and be one of many gauges to track the health of your marriage. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to begin practicing understanding—not just of sex as God intended, but understanding of your spouse and marriage through communication, compassion, and communion.

Authentic Responsibilities: No Disrespect

Authentic Responsibilities #13: I am responsible for expressing myself without disrespecting the other and, when I do, to seek forgiveness and make plans to avoid repeating the disrespect. 

rude polite sign by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I needed to have a difficult conversation, and I was ready to express myself. I pulled my friend aside to speak to her privately. I told her the truth with no sugar-coating: that in our ministry, no one liked her; that she was bossy; and that she needed to step back from taking over everything and allow more creativity in our group. However, I stressed that—in Christian love—she could still be a part of the group if she would just stop trying to take over. She burst into tears. I hugged her and told her I hated to bear this bad news, but since it was true, someone needed to tell her.

This situation happened in college, and obviously during that time, I was emotionally immature and didn’t handle this well. Authentic responsibility #13 focuses on expressing ourselves without disrespecting others, and apologizing when we do. However, I know better now and want to share with you three ways to conquer this authentic responsibility with ease:

  • Express your feelings only. Many of our feelings are based on ideas and thoughts that we have assumed about another person/people, not on what is reality. In my situation, I should’ve started out with, “I felt very hurt that you took over, like the established leadership was not good enough.” Notice I named the feeling and the assumption that I had made about her: that I was hurt and that my leadership wasn’t good enough. This communicates what I was feeling and gives an idea about where I stand and why. In addition, I shouldn’t have said what I thought other people thought! Focus on your own feelings and not the other person’s personality, feelings, or assumed thoughts.
  • Express yourself respectfully. I gave an example of expressing your own feelings. Some call this using “I” statements, but “I think you are dumb” and “I hate it when you…” are also “I” statements—albeit inflammatory, insensitive, and rude ones. The things I said to my friend were disrespectful and hurtful—they did not build her up or strengthen our friendship just because I was “honest.” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” When you are expressing yourself, choose your words wisely and build others up—don’t tear them down.
  • Express your sincere apology. There will be times when we express ourselves in a way that is not respectful to others. I thought about doing it (purposefully) to someone this morning! We may not to WANT to express ourselves in a respectful and loving way, and sometimes, that desire is going to become a reality. When it does, however, we need to sincerely apologize to the person we have offended for being rude, hurtful, and disrespectful. James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins to each other so that we can be healed, so go to your brother or sister and apologize! I apologized to my friend several years later, and she was gracious and loving—and I was able to move forward in healing.

We are not always going to be perfect in this authentic responsibility—it is a constant struggle for me! However, if we keep these three ideas in mind, we can begin to mature emotionally and be authentically responsible as we express ourselves to others.

How easy is it for you to express yourself to others respectfully?

Authentic Responsibilities: You’re Not Psychic?!

Authentic Responsibility #12: I am responsible for letting others know how I feel and what I think, instead of requiring them to read my mind.

mind reader by stockimages

image courtesy of stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net

I knew something wasn’t right with me, but I couldn’t pinpoint it. I was really feeling disgusting and hating everyone, and my newest BFF was feeling the brunt of it. He couldn’t do anything right, every decision he made got on my nerves, and I basically was being a jerk. But I hadn’t talked to him—or anyone else—about what was going on with me, so he basically was just left to wonder. Besides, I reasoned: he should just know. He should know that I don’t feel good and that this is just a bad time for me. But he didn’t figure out my issue. And what exactly was my issue? PMS. Eventually as the week wore on, I admitted to him that I wasn’t feeling my best and I identified the culprit. “When it comes to that, you have to just tell me!” he insisted. He was right: I shouldn’t have expected him to read my mind and know my issue.

Authentic responsibility #12 is a timely reminder for me that people do not just automatically KNOW what I am thinking or feeling, and that I need to communicate with them and not be angry when they don’t read my mind. This authentic responsibility has “women” written all over it—but everyone does this! And here are a couple of ways that we can all stop expecting telepathy and start experiencing reality:

  • Be willing to say “I don’t know.” Truth be told, I didn’t know right away that I was experiencing PMS. I didn’t know what was up with me. But instead of admitting that I didn’t know, I said nothing at all. Saying “I don’t know” is its own authentic responsibility, but to refresh your memory: if you don’t know how you feel or what you think, then admit it! Sometimes we need time to figure out our thoughts and feelings on things, and that is normal. So say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” and then re-open the conversation once you have figured it out.
  • Be honest with yourself, then others. Examine your feelings to find any underlying emotion (sometimes, anger can be a secondary emotion) or issue that needs to be addressed. Once I took the time to scrutinize my feelings and my calendar, I realized what the exact issue was. Dwelling on my feelings of anger and dissatisfaction did nothing to help the situation; they intensified my negative feelings and made the situation difficult for my friends and family. However, when I took time to be honest with myself and then others, I was able to pinpoint the issue and clearly communicate my feelings, thoughts, and needs.
  • Be prepared for varied responses. Some people and situations will gladly welcome honesty about your feelings and thoughts. My friend was very glad to know that there was a reason behind my change in personality, and he asks for that honesty. Sometimes, however, people are not used to honesty or ready for it, and they will balk when they receive it. Know what you will say if they are accepting and if they are rejecting, if they are supportive or if they are uncooperative. But be wary of allowing others’ opinions and reactions to define you or your desire to communicate more effectively.

Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way, But the foolishness of fools is deceit.” Be wise: seek to understand your ways and communicate to others without expecting them to read your mind, and you will find less strife awaits you!

How difficult is it for you to let others know how you feel and think?

Authentic Responsibilities: Just So We’re Clear…

Authentic Responsibility #9: When I do not understand any type of communication, I am responsible to ask for clarification without apology.

questions by dream designs

image courtesy of dream designs / freedigitalphotos.net

I’m struggling writing this because this is the most difficult of the authentic responsibilities for me. In fact, I’m in a situation now that is basically a result of me not following this authentic responsibility, a result of me not being clear with my communication and not asking for clarity when I don’t know. There’s this guy I know who, every time he touches me, entangles me emotionally and keeps me hung up for weeks. I like and respect him in so many ways, but even more, I feel a deep connection with him from my end that leaves me wrecked and confused every time we interact. And the wrecked, confused me knows that my wrecked confusion is my fault because I haven’t been authentically responsible by asking for or giving clarification about our non-verbal communications. In addition, I have continued to make assumptions in my mind about what is really happening in these exchanges—which is nothing, because I know that he is a mercy gift who needs touch and, understanding this, I allow it. The truth is, something is happening to me: I’m attached to him and going crazy.

Authentic responsibility #9 says that we should seek clarification for any type of communication that we do not understand. Proverbs 28:26 says, “Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.” Leaning not to our own understanding is central to this responsibility, and here are a two ways to swallow your pride and walk safely in wisdom:

  • When in doubt, ask. When you don’t know what is going on, the logical thing to do is to ask for clarification as soon as there’s a question. Don’t wait—just do it! Quite honestly, this is exactly what I should be doing in my situation. But the hold up is pride masked as fear—fear of the response. Will they think I’m stupid? Will they laugh at me for being vulnerable? The answer is maybe. The reality is who cares! You are not responsible for what they think of you; you are responsible for only accepting those judgments of you that YOU think are valid. You are not stupid, and vulnerability is beautiful. So throw off fear and pride and ask for clarification—without apology. 
  • When not in doubt, ask anyway! Sometimes, we apply our own understanding to the situation and it ends up being wrong. In my current situation, I’m assuming that nothing is happening behind these non-verbal exchanges—but I really don’t know if that’s true. And even if I’m right, the best scenario is to confirm it, not assume it. A good waiter who takes your order at a restaurant will read it back to you to make sure he got it right. He is confirming, even though he may not be in doubt about what you ordered. If you appreciate that with your food, imagine how much others would appreciate you confirming what you hear them say, what they need, or what you mean in your verbal and non-verbal communications. Imagine a world with fewer communication errors: it’s a safer, wiser place to live, isn’t it?

Proverbs 18:2 says, “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” Don’t be a fool! Seek understanding in your communications with others. Now if you all will excuse me, I must go pray for the opportunity to have a difficult, clarifying conversation.

When have you needed clarification about a communication with someone? How did you get it?