How to Communicate with Difficult People

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We all have people in our lives that are hard to get along with.  It may be someone you work with, live beside or even live with.  While we cannot change the other person or force them to treat you differently, you can change the way that you respond to them.  You see, many times it’s the way we respond to bad behavior that drives even more bad behavior.  This is hard to do because we all have emotions and sometimes those emotions can take over and take us down a path that causes more damage.

When we work on ourselves, we can change our attitude, our words and our non-verbal communication.  Here is a simple communication rule that may help you make progress in those difficult relationships:

People who are hard to get along with allow their anger, frustration, insecurity and disappointment to drown out most everything good around them.  The good news is that they don’t act that way all the time, even though it may seem that way.  Eventually they’ll leave the safety of their negative emotions-even it’s only for a moment.  They’ll do or say something nice, show concern, or offer to help with something.  It is in those moments that you need to recognize their best.  Let them know the good you see in them.  Show them how much you care and how much they mean to you.  When you look for and focus on the good in people, you help them to see what is possible in their lives.  You give energy to what is right about them.  Your love and attention creates an environment where they can choose to change and respond differently themselves.

It’s in those critical moments when they do something right that we can choose to be positive and re-enforce good behavior or be negative ourselves and destroy any glimmer of hope.  Every person has some good in them, even though it may be buried deep inside them.

A Word to Husbands

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Relationships are hard and messy and most men are not good at developing healthy relationships.  Once we get married it is easy to sit back and focus on our work and providing financially or focusing on our own needs.  Most guys, myself included are selfish and we are not always thinking about how to love our wives or lead our household.

Peter talks about this in one of his letters that is part of the Bible.  Peter talks a lot about submission, respect, blessing and honor.  This is not only in marriage relationships but in all relationships.  He writes this after having spent a significant amount of time with Jesus.  After observing how Jesus treated other people he was able to write about how we should treat our bosses, our political leaders and our spouses.

I want to zero in on his comments to husbands.  in 1 Peter 3:7 he is talking to husbands, I like the Message version of the Bible which says “Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.”

He is calling husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way. We are to honor our wives and model submission and service. We are to initiate blessing, rather than retaliate when things go wrong.  Men are called to be spiritual leaders and that means we take responsibility for the health of our relationships.  This means we set the tone and we initiate what we want others to do.  Don’t wait for her to start treating you with respect before you make an effort to love and respect her.

The way we treat our wives will affect our spiritual health. It starts with us and how we respond to our wives.  The words we use, the things that we do, the time that we take, and the way that we listen.

Peter sums this up by saying this “Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless-that’s your job, to bless. you’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.”

Now I realize that we won’t always get it right and we will mess up.  We will do selfish things and say stupid things, but in order to love our wives we must keep pushing forward, trying to understand our wives and treat them as a precious gift.  Being humble means asking for and giving forgiveness on a regular basis.  The key is to not give up, keep trying to learn how to love your wife better, learn from your mistakes and above all else keep growing closer to God.  Only God can help you to love your wife the way you should.

 

 

How to Resolve Relational Crisis

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I spend a good bit of time with people that are in the midst of personal catastrophes.  Most are relational struggles, whether in a marriage, a family or at work.  The health of our relationships are an indicator of the health of ourselves.

Whenever I am meeting with someone that is going through a relational struggle, I always try to bring it back to the person I am talking with.  There is not much in life that we can control, but when it comes to ourselves, we do have a choice in what we do, think, say and believe.

For someone that has a broken relationship, it always starts with yourself.  It is easy to look at those around you and blame their behavior, attitude or hurtful actions for why things are so bad.  Yet that will never resolve the issue or change the circumstances.  It always starts in your own heart.  It starts with your own character.  Your character is who you really are.  It will reflect how much you accomplish in life and how well you love yourself and others.

Your character is the internal script that you follow in response to conflict, mistreatment, pain and even success.  When that script is focused on yourself and preserving or getting what you want, the actions that follow will usually dig the hole even deeper or add fuel to the fire.  Part of our character is the defense mechanism’s we have developed over the years in dealing with conflict and pain.  It might be sarcasm, humor, withdrawing/silent treatment, yelling/escalating or even going into fix it mode.

Changing that internal script is hard work, yet it is the only way to work through a relational crisis.  It starts by taking personal responsibility for what you contributed and how you have reacted.  Then it involves the hard work of self-actualization, seeing yourself, your reactions, your character and your beliefs and where you are off course.  This is hard work and will take the help of God and other people.  It means being humble enough to ask for help and to admit your mistakes.  When you get on your knees and ask God to change your heart and character, that is when the rough edges start to get smoothed out.  It will take time, perseverance, patience and practice, but you can change.

Working on yourself is one of the most productive things you can do in order to be successful in life.  Take the time and energy to get healthy emotionally, to work through the hurts and hang-ups from your past.  Take time to grow in your faith and connect more with God and involve him in every area of your life.  Take time to build trust with yourself and others and work on relational skills like listening, asking questions, asking for and extending forgiveness.

The best thing you can do for any relationship in your life is to be healthy emotionally, spiritually, relationally and physically.  In a relational crisis the way in which you respond will either add fuel to the fire or add water to the fire.  How you respond is a reflection of your character.  The choice is always yours.

Seven Communication Ideas

Communication is one of the most important skills a leader has. The ability to clearly communicate with the people around you is vital to the success of any business, marriage or relationship.

When it comes to any kind of leadership, it’s all about how you handle the relationships around you. Whether you are at home, work, school or out with friends, communication sets the tone. People want to be heard, understood and appreciated. If you can do that we’ll, you will be a great leader, spouse or friend.

Here are a few ideas on how to improve as a communicator. Do these these things consistently and your relationships will improve.

– understand your listeners frame of reference – this is important because everyone has a different filter. They have different experiences, personalities, hurts and hang-ups. So you need to think about how they might view what you are saying, not from your perspective but theirs.

– know the facts and the truth about the topic – focusing on the facts and truth can help take the emotion out of it. It also will help your listener understand the why behind your message.

– shed light on the issue – you need to clearly explain why this issue is important to your listener.

– get their full attention – you must know the best time to have the talk. Only address important issues when you have someone’s full attention. You might need to make a statement or ask a question that will get their attention. Never use negative tactics like sarcasm or yelling or swearing.

– use word pictures or stories – people remember pictures and stories much better than words. Try to use a story to bring clarity to what you are communicating and why you are feeling a certain way.

– focus on the real issues – it takes work to figure out the real issues that are driving someone’s behavior. Asking questions to try to understand the real issue is important, but you must listen without reacting or challenging them as they answer. Patiently ask clarify questions and even repeat back what they said.

– finally, be interactive – what I mean by that is don’t lecture someone, make it more of a conversation. When you listen before you speak, you send the message to the other person that you care about them. If things begin to escalate stop, take a deep breath and ask a clarifying question. If you cant do that, then you need a break until you or the other person are in a better place to talk.

Communication is something we do every day. If we don’t work at it and improve the way we communicate all of our relationships will suffer. If this is an area of struggle find someone to coach you, it will be well worth the effort.

Are You Happily Married?

Marriage is a very challenging yet rewarding relationship. I’ve been married now for 24 years and I’m still learning, making mistakes and trying to grow and get better at being a husband. I think a lot of people enter marriage thinking that this relationship will make me happy. That is a dangerous mindset entering marriage. Oh there will be times of great happiness, but there will also be times of sorrow, anger, disappointment and conflict.

All healthy relationships are messy and hard at times. Gary Thomas said this in his book Sacred Marriage, “God intended marriage not to make you happy, but to make you holy”. That is so true if you are a Christian. God uses the relationships in our lives to shape and mold our character. Each of us has a choice in the matter. Do we view marriage as a place to get my needs met, or where I become more like Christ?

Marriage is not primarily about feeling happy everyday. It’s not about getting what you deserve or getting the sex you want. Marriage is a lifelong training ground to knock off the rough edges and reform your selfish nature in order to make you holy. The cool thing is when you become more holy you become more happy.

Marriage is about commitment, giving, serving, forgiving, sacrificing and humbling yourself. That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but marriage is also about intimacy. The healthiest marriages have 3 kinds of intimacy: Spiritual, emotional and physical. When all 3 of those areas are healthy and growing there is usually a good bit of happiness as well. However to be healthy and growing in those areas, you must be committed, giving, serving, forgiving and sacrificing.

Knowing how to love your spouse is also a learning experience. Knowing, understanding and applying the 5 love languages that Gary Chapman lays out in his book The Five Love Languages is vital to a long healthy marriage. If you don’t know them, then get the book and read it.

If you want a better marriage it will take some work like reading a book or ten, going to see a counselor and actually being open and honest. It might mean learning new ideas and changing old mind sets about marriage. It might mean learning what your fear buttons are and how that triggers your unhealthy responses. It might means asking for forgiveness or extending forgiveness.

The point is you must work on yourself in order to improve any relationship. The more you focus on yourself and your own issues the better your relationship will get. When you also include God in the process you can transform any marriage or any relationship no matter how damaged it may be.

Love always trusts, always hopes, always remains strong.