Are you tired of the hateful language on television and social media lately? It isn’t coming just from unbelievers. It’s coming from those who follow Christ, too.
My friend, Dawn Marie Wilson, has a heart to see women live more godly lives. As my guest blogger today, she offers simple ways we can stand out amidst the hostility and be a more compassionate, yet effective, communicator.
Dawn says: “I believe every one of us can become a more compassionate communicator.”
Here are Dawn’s 8 ways we can learn to express ourselves in a more compassionate manner:
1. We can learn to be SENSITIVE.
We must be sensitive to differences. God designed a beautiful “garden” of people. Some are “roses,” some are “daisies,” and some are awesome medicinal “weeds”! Is a rose better than a weed just because we think it’s so?
God is the Potter and we are His clay (Isaiah 64:8). Every person is beautiful and valuable—created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Instead of trying to ignore our differences, we can develop deeper appreciation for them. We can love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31).
Being sensitive doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything; we can learn to disagree agreeably. Sensitivity is simply the capacity to be aware of differences and the needs of others. That’s something we all can cultivate.
2. We can show RESPECT.
We can show all people respect and courtesy (1 Peter 2:17a) and encourage their dignity. We may not necessarily respect what they do, but we can respect who they are as a person. Respect invites respect, and civility lifts humanity.
Simple politeness and good manners are part of respect. We must teach our children these lessons early: respect for God, His creation—including people—and authority.
3. We can be open about our INTENTIONS.
Being honest about intentions will help us relate better. It’s always beneficial to know a person’s goals and plans. Otherwise, unrealistic expectations can take over, leading to disappointment or hurt. Knowing a person’s intentions can help build trust.
Once, a Christian was “stringing me along” instead of telling me what he really felt. It was a waste of time for both of us and hurt our relationship. I would have appreciated an honest expression of his real intentions (Colossians 3:9).
4. We can listen to UNDERSTAND.
Often, our idea of communication is to share everything we know. We forget an important element: listening.
James 1:19 says we should be “quick to listen.” It’s more than a physical act of hearing. It’s actively listening with the mind and heart with the purpose of understanding. It’s listening with purpose and empathy, without judgmental attitudes. It includes eye contact and focus.
Jon Bloom wrote that “quickness to listen is a mark of humility.” Listening to understand before we speak is a sign we don’t think we are wise in our own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15).
5. We can ask questions to CLARIFY.
Asking questions is a simple way to make sure we understand. Ask, “Did you mean…?” Paraphrase what a person said to insure there is no misunderstanding. Asking questions allows people to edit what they’re saying—to make corrections, if necessary.
When faced with belligerent or prickly people, I’ve learned to ask questions rather than make statements. A revivalist once told me, “Questions prick the conscience, but statements harden the heart.” I’ve found this so helpful.
6. We can carefully express our EMOTIONS.
It’s never good to bottle up our feelings, but our words must be fitly spoken (Proverbs 25:11). We must be careful and express our concerns in healthy ways.
Attacking, blaming others and name-calling are never acceptable. People tend to pull away or defend themselves when they feel these kinds of attacks.
We can express how we feel, but never by projecting negative feelings onto others in an accusatory or manipulative way. Conversely, we can express positive, sincere emotions that can help in difficult situations.
7. We can speak the TRUTH in LOVE.
Deception poisons communication. Lying leads to misunderstanding, and faulty information can lead to wrong decisions.
We must use discernment when sharing opinions. Even constructive criticism should be invited. But when there is a relationship built on trust and honesty, there is freedom to speak.
If we must be frank in tough circumstances, we can still be sensitive and loving (Ephesians 4:15).
8. We can always aim for UNITY.
The psalmist wrote, “Seek peace and pursue it” (34:14). This should always be our goal in compassionate communication. It may take effort, but in our culture, it’s so worth it!
Which of these suggestions will you begin incorporating in order to more effectively — and compassionately — communicate with others?
Dawn Wilson is a writer and speaker, calling women to make wise and godly choices. She works as a researcher with the national women’s revival ministry, Revive Our Hearts. Dawn is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, and also publishes LOL with God and Upgrade with Dawn. She also writes for True Woman.com and Crosswalk.com. Dawn lives in Southern California, but also travels occasionally with her husband and the International School Project. They have two married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo.