Admitting we are wrong is a difficult thing to do. It requires humility and the ability to take a look at ourselves in an honest way. When it comes to relationships, whether it is with our spouses, children, or co-workers, the problem often boils down to faulty communication. Here are five of the most common communication mistakes and some ideas on how to avoid them.
1. Assuming People are Mind Readers
"My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. " (Psalm 49:3)
Sometimes we tend to think others should read our minds. Isn't it obvious to our husbands that we've been tied down with small children all day and need them to take charge for awhile? Shouldn't your wife assume that you want to watch that game on Sunday instead of taking her out to dinner? Doesn't your co-worker realize that you're stressed out today?
It may be obvious to you, but not to the other person. They may have a million other things on their mind, and they're not even thinking about the issues that you are.
If you have to tell your husband that you need a break, or your wife that you really wanted to see this game, there's nothing wrong with that. Speaking honestly doesn't mean the other person is somehow lacking, it just means that you are communicating well.
"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." (James 1:19)
My younger son really has a pet peeve about someone interrupting him, and he tries hard not to interrupt others when they are speaking. In a conversation, it's normal to think of responses while someone is talking with you, but it's only courteous to wait till they are finished before you bring up your ideas.
Interrupting is a big communication mistake, because you are telling the other person that you're not really listening to them. You simply want to get you two-cents-worth in.
Only urgent reasons should excuse an interruption, such as an important phone call or having to turn the oven off.
Speaking of phones, cell phones are a huge source of interruptions. We should observe proper etiquette when speaking to another when the cell phone rings.
3. Not Listening
"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:4)
In my opinion, this is a biggie. There is nothing quite so frustrating or demeaning as trying to communicate with someone who doesn't listen to you. I think that today's society is so busy with "busyness," that people don't take time to look you in the eye and listen to you. Not listening is actually rude, and it sends a signal to the other person that they're not important enough to give them your attention.
I once heard a story of two gentlemen who met on an airplane because they were seated next to each other. After they introduced themselves, one man talked in great length to the other. The second fellow didn't say much at all, but he was an attentive listener. At the end of the trip, the first man said to the second, "You are the the most interesting person I've ever met." Yet the man had said practically nothing! He just listened. People respond when we give them this attention.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)
I think sarcasm is cruel. Some people think it's smart or funny. To me, sarcasm is a way of putting another down or quietly making fun of them. I feel that they are saying, "I talk this way to you because you are stupid. I'm so much smarter."
Sarcasm belittles people and embarrasses them. The sarcastic person thinks he or she is being smart or clever, but that is not the case at all. The individual is simply being unkind.
While I'm on the subject of sarcasm, I want to say that speaking to children in this way is especially heartless. First of all, they may not even understand the meaning behind your words. Secondly, it sets them up for self-esteem issues when they are repeatedly spoken to in insensitive ways.
When I taught school, I knew of teachers who tried to control behavior problems with sarcasm. It may have caused the child to be embarrassed enough to back off at the moment, but there was no long-term good that came out of it. The child developed an antagonism for that teacher and gave him or her even more trouble. Showing the students respect fostered a mutual feeling of kindness, and was much more effective in keeping behavior problems at bay.
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Proverbs 15:1)
I once heard the statement that yelling isn't effective, it just shows that you are out of control. You will never communicate effectively by yelling at another person. Shouting at another is demeaning and disrespectful. A soft, courteous tone will get you much farther.