by Rick Warren — October 5, 2020
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
What do you think is going to happen if you start a conversation with your agenda, your hurt, your complaint, or your problem? You’re not going to get very far!
Every conversation should start by empathizing with the needs of the other person. What are their hurts? What are their interests? What are their fears? What are their problems?
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).
There are four commands in this verse: Speak only what is helpful, build others up, defer to others’ needs, and benefit others. None of those commands are about you.
You’ll get your turn at some point. You’ll have your chance to speak your frustration or fear or need or opinion—but don’t start there.
Here’s how to start: When you sit down to the conversation, say, “You go first.” Then let them speak without any interruption. Don’t ask questions. Don’t ask for clarification. Don’t challenge. Take notes if necessary. But just let them speak. That shows you’re aware. That shows you’re paying attention. That shows you care.
There’s another way to show you care: Summarize what the other person said. You say, “Let me repeat back to you what I think I heard you say.” You paraphrase what you heard them saying so that they can affirm or correct you and maintain healthy communication. This shows them that you cared enough to listen and also to make sure they were understood. It’s a powerful way to show love in any relationship.
It’s human nature to want to focus on yourself. But the sign of a master communicator is having enough humility to make the other person the focus of the conversation and make them feel heard and understood.