“If only I wouldn’t blow up/yell at my kids/spouse.”… “If only I didn’t feel so alone.”….. “If only I didn’t feel so overwhelmed.” “If only I could get my kids/spouse to listen to me.” “If only….”
Do any of these phrases, or ones similar, come to your mind? I’ve been thinking about these subjects a lot lately. For one, because they are a summation of my biggest weaknesses. For two, they all boil down to one basic principle that I need to work on: Communication.
I wouldn’t blow up, if I would communicate my needs/desires in a positive and effective way before I get to the rage stage. I wouldn’t feel so alone, if I would really communicate with people and God rather than be superficial and prideful, or ramble off an almost memorized prayer. I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed if I would learn when to say no, or not now, and communicate my needs from the very beginning. My family would listen to me, if I was actually communicating instead of mandating and nagging.
I’ve actually studied this issue quite over the years (yes, I am STILL working on this) both on the spiritual and secular level. I’ve found several helpful books and articles that have helped me create some ideas for change. My favorite and most helpful information has come through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost and through Scripture. I have really found Proverbs, James, and 1st and 2nd Peter to be very useful.
All in all it comes down to the fact that I want to be a woman of virtue that my family will be happy to be around, and talk well of, like described in Proverbs 31. I definitely want to avoid becoming the woman that sends her family to the corner of a rooftop like is also mentioned in Proverbs. This will not happen until I change my old habits with new ones. So this is what I’m working on remembering:
Communication is Listening, Understanding, Empathy, and Action.
In other words, in order to communicate we must first listen to the other person in the conversation. Not just wait for them to finish so we can say what we want to say, but really listen.
Next we seek to understand. This means, after listening we summarize what we heard to make sure we are hearing what they want us to.
Now, let’s put the other person(s) shoes on for a bit and see how we would feel and act if we were them…don’t be prideful, really if we WERE them we WOULD feel and act just as they have and are…so let’s try to see it from that perspective.
Once we’ve truly empathized with the other person(s) then we can say or do what we feel is best. Yes, it is important that our feelings are addressed, but if we truly listen, understand and empathize with the other person we may find that our feelings change because the whole issue was misunderstood.
Another thing that has been helpful for me is to remember that in order for our feelings, needs and desires to be heard we cannot make them an attack. Saying, “You did such and such just so I would feel such and such.” Or “You never do such and such” or “You always do such and such” are attacks. We are assuming a self-centered perspective that the other person meant to harm us. Or we are generalizing, which, when generally speaking we know that most generalizations just aren’t generally true (now, how is that for a generalization?). Anyway, many times we will find that the other person had no real intention of harm.
Instead we can say something like, “I feel such and such because of such and such that happened.” Just state the facts. Saying it in the “I” form makes it less of an attack because you are taking responsibility for your feelings and not saying that the person necessarily tried to hurt us. Also, when we say it in this way it forces us to identify the feelings we are feeling and what exactly we feel is causing it/them. That way we don’t get side-tracked by past hurts or unrelated themes that just lead to more miscommunication and more hurt feelings.
In a nutshell, we can blame the other person(s) for our feelings or our past experiences for creating bad habits. That is an option, one that will leave us will unresolved feelings and problems and generally (there is that word again!) miserable for the rest of our existence. OR, We can CHOOSE to change.
We are the only things that we can really change anyway, so why not start with ourselves? I’ve been working on this same road of self-improvement for quite a few years now. Looking back I do see monumental progress. Looking forward at my goal I feel a little overwhelmed and the work I have left to do. But I am not alone. YOU are not alone. Grace and mercy are empowering miracles in our lives and I hope you will join me in the journey.
What do you feel is the most important aspect of Communication? What do you do when you feel discouraged by self-improvement?