Express Yourself...With Power, Effectiveness, and Wisdom
Posted Jul 06 2009 6:17pm
I'm getting the distinct impression that God is getting a chuckle out of me writing a column about relationships. Maybe I'm just more aware of my blunders since having started writing about it, but it sure seems at times that I am failing miserably at the very thing I'm commissioned to write about. I am learning though; and growing too, so all is not lost.
Meryl Runion of Speak Strong says, "Express yourself powerfully and effectively: say what you mean, mean what you say, without being mean when you say it." To me, that ideal seems just out of reach at times; usually it's the part about not being mean that gets lost somewhere between my brain and my mouth; at home anyway. Home is where it all comes out, uncensored and chock full of meaning. Home is where my husband points out my error and prefaces it with, "Hey, Relationship Lady".
I don't know about you, but outside of my home I generally filter what I say to people. I admire and envy the ones who can just speak their mind and everyone finds it endearing. Oh, to be able to just speak my mind! I've thought about the subject a lot, because it gets tiresome always parsing your words. I've entertained fantasies about just letting it go to the wind and completely being myself and leaving the results for everyone else to worry about. Why can't I seem to just do that? It sounds so liberating!
So far, I've come to the conclusion that filtering can be a good thing, at home and abroad; and that the benefit of being able to bluntly get my point across is overshadowed by the hurt I would inflict on the relationships that mean so much to me. As far as the relationships that don't mean so much: well, it's become a habit to bite my tongue now so those folks just get a bonus.
However, keeping your thoughts to yourself doesn't have to mean that you don't express yourself. There are ways to communicate what you're thinking that allow for relational growth and for really getting to the heart of the issue at hand, rather than just spouting off or airing your grievances.
One such technique I heard explained recently comes from a book called Dealing with Different, Diverse (& Difficult) People by Barbara Braunstein. The author spells it out in what she calls, 'A Five Step Model'. In this model, the objective is to break down the situation and use the 5 steps as a guide to approaching conflict resolution. It is a technique that I think applies to dealing with all people, difficult or otherwise.
You see, we all assign meaning to situations based on our perspective. Sometimes the meanings we assign are faulty. Trying to communicate how we feel about a situation based solely on our perception, without explaining that perception, results in unproductive or disastrous communication.
The Five Step Model
1. I See - State the facts
2. I Feel - State your feelings
3. I Think - State your perception of the facts
4. I Respect - Validate their position
5. I Want - State your request
My friend tried this out with her daughter shortly after we'd heard it. She wanted her daughter to clean her room, so instead of getting upset and complaining at her about being irresponsible and so on, she calmly began working her way through the above list stating the fact that the room in question was not acceptable in it's current condition and so on. She got about half way through the list and her daughter looked at her sideways and said, "What is that?... What are you doing?"
It was definitely a humorous moment, and my friend related to me that even though she was stumbling her way through the list, trying to remember the steps while she was saying them, the conversation was successful and her daughter said, "I like this [new] way of dong things. When you say it like that, I want to do it... it doesn't feel like I'm doing work.". That just goes to show that good communication, even if it comes out less than smoothly, goes farther than any of those other, unnamed tactics we tend to fall into.
Most likely all of us have heard the verse in Proverbs that says "grievous words stir up anger", but I think the next verse applies as well when it says "the tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright" (Proverbs 15:1-2 KJV).
How many times do we stop at 'not using grievous words', yet overlook the part about 'using knowledge aright'. The New Living Translation reads, "The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing" (Proverbs 15:2). The story my friend shared with me about her conversation with her daughter is a perfect illustration of how speaking wisely caused the hearer to find the knowledge appealing. I can think of a few recent instances I could have benefited from that wisdom with my own family.
So I guess I've got my endless life assignment now: Think about what I want to accomplish by what I am saying and learn to express myself powerfully and effectively and with wisdom; making knowledge appealing. I'll probably still end up with plenty of fodder for sharing life lessons, but as long as I grow along the way it will all be alright. His grace will cover the rest.