Monday, October 20, 2008
Golden Silence: an update on my communication makeover
A few weeks ago I posted about some changes I wanted to make in how I communicate (you can read that post here). I'm doing a lot better with saying what I mean, but I've found that sarcasm has deep roots and puts out a lot of "suckers". Every time I think I've eradicated it, somehow it pops up again. So the struggle continues.
In the meantime, I've discovered a new tool in my quest to make over my speech: silence. Simply holding my tongue, although definitely not easy, has proven extremely useful. Sometimes I just need to stay silent until I've sorted out my feelings -- in place of my previous non-strategy of spilling out whatever I'm thinking and then sorting it out later, usually after tears have been involved. If I stop first and put myself in the other person's shoes, or give the other person a chance to clarify what they really mean, a lot of unnecessary hurt and tension can be avoided. I've found that if I give it enough time, the other person may realize their own mistake and come to me to resolve it, without my saying anything about how they've hurt me. Even if they don't, a little bit of time and distance are a wonderful aid to gaining perspective and regaining calm. I just need to be sure that I'm not choosing to be silent as a means of punishment, or cutting myself off.
I've also been thinking a lot about gossip. I'm not really a gossiper by nature, and I've always tried to be very careful about watching my tongue in this department. But it's not always clear what the difference is between gossip and simply "catching up" or sharing news about friends. Strangely enough, a comment by Dave Ramsey (the financial adviser) helped clarify this for me. In his company, the employees are told "Postive Up, Negative Down" when it comes to communication at work. For example, if an employee doesn't like how the network functions, they are only allowed to tell someone who can actually do something about it -- otherwise it's just negative gossip. If they're talking to someone below them in the hierarchy of authority, they need to use positive comments and praises. So I'm trying to apply a similar policy to my life: before I pass on anything negative, I ask myself if the person I'm talking to can help the situation at all. If they can't, I'd better not pass it along. On the flip side, when I am with my officemates, who have strong negative tendencies, I only talk about positive things -- like our dodgeball tournament that's coming up!
I've already felt the strain of not sharing burdens of "negative" knowledge. Generally, the one exception I make to the rule is my husband. We both strongly agree that spouses should openly share everything together, being "one flesh". But there are occasions where knowledge given in confidence can't even be shared with a spouse, at least for a period of time. In this case, the only place to send the burden is "up" -- to God. Learning to leave it there...that's going to take more practice.