Sharing a glass of chocolate milk seemed harmless. Ruth (age 7) and Carolyn (age 6) handed the cup back and forth, being careful not to spill on their clean clothes. A teasing look twinkled in Carolyn’s eyes after she enjoyed her turn and she held onto the cup. She waited for Ruth’s reaction. “Carolyn, it’s my turn!” Ruth said. Carolyn ignored her and took another sip. “Carolyn,” Ruth’s voice rose, “you’re suppose to share with me.” Again, Carolyn ignored her…sip, sip. In frustration, Ruth yelled, “Carolyn, give it to me!” With that, Carolyn flung the cup at Ruth, dousing her with chocolate milk from head to toe. When I asked Carolyn why she did that, she smiled and said, “Well, she said: Give it to me! – so I did.”
Poor communication can cause problems. Even though sibling teasing was involved here, it makes a good point. We don’t always say what we mean and mean what we say, and we don’t always hear what was meant.
What does it take to communicate well?
Listen accurately. Pay more attention to understanding than being understood. If you’re planning what you’re going to say next, you’re not listening.
Ask questions. When I hear something that hits-me-the-wrong-way, I typically take my reaction(hurt, embarrassment, anger) stuff it down and carry it home where I think about it over…and over…and come up with some amazing thing I should have said. As I keep stuffing my feelings down, resentment grows. Resentment never stays hidden. It’ll come out some way: sarcastic jabs, silent treatment, outbursts. It’s like stuffing rocks into a sack until it’s too heavy to carry and then throwing the sack into their face.
I’m learning a helpful remedy: ask questions. “What did you mean when you said that?” or “Why did you say that?” or “It sounds to me like you’re saying (repeat it back to them). Am I right?” These questions helps bring more talking and understanding. Often, I find I completely misunderstood their first statement. And, I don’t have to carry anything home.
Say what you think. Express your feelings, attitudes and views clearly, simply and not accusingly. If you’re not good at this, practice.
Be willing to deal with STUFF. Conflict is natural. Be willing to work through it. Avoiding or pretending never helps. It forces a fake relationship.
Don’t demand. God gave us a free will. We think and view things differently. When you honor that in others you won’t demand they agree with you. When you honor that in yourself, you won’t back-peddle or hold back from expressing yourself in order to feel accepted. Appreciate the differences.
Respect each other. Sometimes there might be harsh, strong or even angry words, but never destructive.
Forgive Easily. If there’s ever going to be a deeper relationship – you have to learn to forgive.
Above all – be very careful if you tell your sister…”Give it to me!” She just might do it.
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