Just this past week I had to swallow my pride, take a step back, and deal with the disrespect I felt in a healthy way. It was really a little thing–one that could have easily been avoided if the person had just sloughed it off as an over site and moved on.
And I’ll admit it was hard to keep the communication flowing in a way that cultivated relationship rather than me shutting down because I felt chastised.
It started with me asking a question.
The response wasn’t what I expected.
“I sent you an email,” the person stated in a tone of accusation.
“Oh, I must have missed it,” I responded in what I tried to make a light-hearted tone.
“Well I sent it.”
I’m sure I paused at the matter of fact tone as I tried to understand my feeling of deeper accusation.
As I took a deep breath my brain clicked into action and I tried to be upbeat and respond in a non-threatening tone. “What email address did you send it to? When we moved we changed providers and I had to change my email.”
The individual shared the email address and sure enough it was my old one.
“I didn’t get an undelivered message. I should have gotten one from the provider if it is no longer in use.” (Translated in my mind, “You didn’t do what you needed to do or this wouldn’t have happened.”)
Unfortunately the conversation digressed even more to others who had not responded to their emails which this person sent.
I laughed to ease the tension. “Guess they got lost somewhere in cyberspace. Oh well. Things happen. It’s not a big deal.” And I eased into the question I had asked in the first place.
“But I want you to know I did what I was supposed to do.” Translated, “Don’t blame me.”
I was shocked at the defensiveness in the tone and a little hurt that she thought I was blaming her for something.
My only goal was to gather information and seek an answer so that I would know what to do next.
I thought I was reaching out in a friendly manner. After all, I appreciated the work this person was doing. It meant a lot that the individual had taken initiative. Yet, somehow this acquaintance/friend wasn’t picking up on my attempts to connect.
Having had my question answered, my first thought as we ended the conversation was, “What could have possibly happened in this person’s life (most likely childhood) that made it so important to not feel blamed?” And I began praying for her.
As I thought about the conversation, I couldn’t help but think of the interactions we have with our kids on a daily basis.
- Does our tone of voice come across to them as if we are scolding them?
- Do we blame them for things they may not have done?
- Do we come across as accusatory in the little statements we make putting them on the defensive?
- Are we inadvertently pushing our kids away rather than creating connection?
- Do our words make them feel stupid or our sarcastic remarks hurt in a way that makes them feel “less than”?
- Are we focused on being right rather than the relationship?
I’m sure the individual I had conversation with had no clue as to how I was feeling in the moment. I’m sure there was no ill-intent of any kind. For this person, it was most likely a learned response based on how others had responded in the past–most likely out of pain and chastisement that was internalized at a young age.
But there is hope.
What I’ve learned through the years of dealing with my own pain is that unhealthy communication patterns can be changed. Sometimes a little humor goes a long way. Apology can help as well. And there are countless ways we can assess what we are feeling in the moment so that we can change the trajectory of what feels like a negative conversation and turn it into connection.
But it takes introspection and practice. It takes the will to change ourselves rather than blaming the other person. And a training weekend sponsored by Greater Impact Ministries can help. Trust me when I say that a training course I went through almost a decade ago literally changed the outcome of who I am today. And the active learning environment made it a safe place to figure out what I was doing wrong in the moment and how to change the outcome with a few simple strategies.
The cool part is that our tone of voice, our defensive patterns, and the words we use are only a small piece of the learning. The training I took all those years ago has transformed into learning that grows exponentially as I encounter new situations every day–especially in my parenting.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
This verse saved me the day I asked the question of my friend.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
And I want the love of my Heavenly Father to flow through me even when it is difficult and I feel disrespected or wrongfully accused.
If you are like me and want to be more like Jesus as you interact with those difficult people in your life, I hope you will join me at our Deflating Defensiveness Training Retreat in the Greater Cincinnati, Ohio area this June.
Women who have attended in the past keep coming back because of what God is doing in their relationships as a result of all they learn. Another thing that happens as a result of the conference is that you will have continued support as you become part of the continued learning community. Women like you who want to make an impact on their relationships and shine the light of Christ to others will be there.
Healthy communication is learned and we can help you impact your family and friendships. We hope you will consider joining us in June.
To find out more: https://www.greaterimpact.org/deflating-defensiveness-training
Dear Heavenly Father,
Sometimes I have expectations on how my kids should interact with me, yet I don’t always respond in a gentle way. I get angry, frustrated, and at times defensive and I see the same behaviors from them. Lord, I want to model your love and connect with them in a healthy way that will impact future generations. Help me to learn to communicate in a way that shows my love for them just like you show Your love for me. I so want a connection with my kids that will stand the test of time. As I pursue You more, help me to also do everything in my power to encourage my children to turn to you. May your influence in my life shine through me so that others will be influenced to follow you.
In the precious name of Jesus. Amen.
“Let go…and Let God”,
I realize that a retreat is a huge commitment. If you aren’t ready to join us in June, can I suggest that you start small with the book With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship With Your Teens & Tweens
If you would like more support than just reading through a book alone, you can join our community eCourse where other Christian moms who have learned our deflating defensive skills will help you learn the process. We’ll walk beside you on your parenting journey.