“Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian. For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand.” Acts 7:23-25
During Stephen’s defense in Acts 7, he reveals why Moses killed an Egyptian in Exodus 2:11-15. Moses supposed his people would understand God would deliver them by his hand. Instead, they questioned him, stood contrary to him and he ended up fleeing for his life. How would this story end differently if Moses had clearly communicated to the people what God had shown him?
How would our relationships be different if we made an effort to clearly communicate to those we’re trying to relate with? It doesn’t matter if it’s our spouses, children, or co-workers, there is no substitute for communicating with clarity. Even when we feel sure that the other person “gets us” we still need to make sure. “The only way to be sure is to make sure.” Here is why: no matter how old we are, how well we speak, how long we’ve been together, or how well we think we know others, none of us can read their hearts and minds clearly and completely. Here are some keys to help improve our communication in relationships.
Create an environment of open communication.
People are more likely to share when they know their input is welcomed and they won’t be penalized for speaking up. Make an effort to defend everyone’s right to share, not just your own. Always be willing also to create a physical environment for open communication. Stop what you’re doing, put the phone down, turn off the TV, and take the time to prioritize healthy communication.
Communicate with the other person in mind.
We may know what we feel but we can’t just communicate those feelings for our own benefit. In the end, the thoughts and feelings we share must be formulated into words and conveyed to others in a way that allows them to translate and internalize what we’ve communicated. Saying it louder and repeating it only makes others feel like we’re forcing our words on them. Instead we should put ourselves in the shoes of the recipient by asking “how would I have responded if someone said those words to me?” An even better question may be “how would a person with their background and makeup respond if those words were spoken to them?”
When we realize we’ve communicated poorly and caused more harm than good, we should immediately apologize. Acknowledge the mistake, admit the mistake to the recipient, validate their feelings, and ask for permission to try again. There is no shame in admitting our errors. There is however shame in leaving them unresolved and allowing hurt feelings and misunderstandings to put wedges between us.