|Posted on 23 April, 2015 at 11:20|
“That’s Not What I Meant!” is a helpful little book about the effects our words have on our relationships. The author, Tim Stafford says, “It is with words, principally, that we build or destroy relationships.” How we communicate and what we actually say, is as important as what we do. Our actions, of course, must back up our words, but words are the only way we can really get to know one another. No one can read another person’s mind. You must say what you mean.
Several things stood out to me in my reading: we speak many words in the day without really thinking about what we say, we are not intentional about our communication, and we don’t have a clear goal in mind when we speak. Stafford encourages the reader to take a deliberate inventory of the words he/she speaks in their important relationships throughout the day. Write them down as you go or reflect at the end of the day. Do this for several days. You will have two main results. One, you become more aware of the language you use. Two, you will have a clear record of your words. You may not like what you see, but it will definitely help you build new, more positive, words into your relationships.
Being intentional with our words, means that we think before we speak. Do the words you are about to say build up or tear down the person to whom you are speaking? Do you know that person well enough to understand how they may feel about what you say? When in doubt, ask, clarify, and restate until you come to a mutual understanding. Do you have goals for your relationships? Most of us would prefer a positive outcome to our interactions, but seldom think about what we want to achieve. I love what Stafford says about his goal for his relationship with his teen-aged daughter:
"I want very much to communicate my love and establish a climate of warmth and encouragement even while I am sometimes setting limits, correcting her behavior, and challenging her to make mature decisions for herself.”
Although most of us would agree with this goal, it just doesn’t seem to play a significant role in the heat of the moment. I remember many interactions with my growing children when my goal was more to keep them quiet or get them out of my hair for a few minutes than it was to build them up. Because we are inherently selfish beings, its difficult to consistently choose the good of the other over our own needs. If we are aware and intentional, it becomes easier. It can be helpful to write out your goals for each of your significant relationships. Ask yourself what it is you really want to achieve? What words and actions support those goals?
Change takes time and practice so stick with it. Remember, these are your goals! The other person may not share them. You may not get the desired response. You cannot be responsible for another’s emotions or responses, but you can improve the chances of building or repairing your relationships by being intentional and deliberate with your interactions.