Helpful communication is very important to a good marriage, but how do we avoid communication that is not helpful? Rob and Gina Flood give practical steps for being intentional with our positive words and how to resolve conflict constructively.
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Rob and Gina Flood give practical steps for being intentional with our positive words and how to resolve conflict constructively.
Michelle: Have you ever been in a tough conversation? Who am I kidding?—of course, you have! You know, it’s in that heat of the moment that I want my words to be heard. But Gina Flood says there’s something bigger at play.
Gina: “What am I worshiping in this moment?” You’ve said something to me that I could choose to be offended about: “What am I worshiping?” Am I worshiping me?—“You have no right to talk to me that way!” That’s going to dictate how I talk to you.
Am I worshiping God?—“There’s something going on in your heart,” and “As an image-bearer of Christ, I want to help you; I want to walk alongside you.” That’s going to affect how I communicate to you and how I respond.
Michelle: Jesus said it’s out of the heart that the mouth speaks. We’re going to talk about communication and words and why they matter. We’re going to hear from Gina and her husband, Rob Flood, on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. You know, if you’ve been alive for any length of time, you know that words have meaning. We use words to communicate: we use words to encourage, words to correct, words to guide, words to crush. We need words when we communicate with our friends, when we communicate with the boss at work, family members, co-workers, roommates, children, and spouse. Whatever your situation is, you probably know that communication, at times, can be dicey. We probably all need a tune-up; and maybe that’s a heart tune-up, because it’s out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks.
You know, I got to sit down and talk with some good friends, and actually former co-workers, here at FamilyLife®, Rob and Gina Flood. Rob has written a book called With These Words. Today, we’re going to learn about communication—some practical tools. To do that, we need to go back to the foundation of communication. It ultimately starts with our heart and the One who made our heart. Here’s Gina.
Gina: God created us as worshipers, and He’s created us as communicators. If we are worshiping God, our communication—the desire for our communication—is going to be to glorify Him in our communication.
Michelle: That’s true.
Gina: If we’re not worshiping God—if we’re worshiping self, if we’re worshiping somebody else, if we’re worshiping something else—the way we communicate reflects that. It’s living life in a way, where we’re choosing to worship God, and we’re choosing to communicate in a way that reflects that.
Rob: Yes, I think it’s a full-circle kind of thing. We can’t really get to a place of having good conversation if our relationship with the Father is a wreck. We’ve got to start there, because God Himself is a communicating God. He reveals Himself through words, and His words are the words of life.
Michelle: And Rob, you state in your book that there are tools/five tools for communication. There is, first, response; prayer; physical touch; mirroring; and proper timing. I’m just curious, are you using these tools with your children?
Rob: Definitely! Yes, and trying to teach them. They wouldn’t be able to name the tools.
Michelle: Right, right.
Rob: We’re not like discipling them “on this specific tool.” [Laughter] But they understand the principle of first response.
Michelle: So unpack the principle of first response for us.
Rob: The way that I capture it in the book is that: “The power in where a conversation goes rests, not in the person who starts it, but in the person who first responds.”
Let’s say that I share a harsh word with Gina—or I’m very tired, and the way I’m talking is lacking carefulness; right?—it’s sinful; it’s uncaring. Gina could respond and say, “Well, who do you think you are to talk to me like that?” Now, she has escalated it.
Rob: However, if she understands: “Okay, he’s tired. This is not how he normally talks to me. I’m going to respond in a way that does not escalate this, and listen to what he probably meant.”
Michelle: What I’m hearing is that the answer-er needs to have a very humble heart; because I know myself, in that kind of situation, I’d be snarky! [Laughter] I’d want to hit right on back!
Rob: It’s why the book starts with some biblical principles of communication. Before we get to the tools, we’ve got to lay down the ground rules; right?
Rob: So one of the ground rules, first out of the gate in chapter one, is that we need to speak so that the person who’s talking with us is engaging God and not us. It comes out of 1 Peter, where we’re supposed to be speaking as though “the very oracles of God.”
Rob: So yes; there has to be humility. If we’re not going to be humble, we have to be thinking: “Should I be speaking now anyway? If I’m only going to be speaking out of pride or self-defensiveness,” or “If I’m only going to be speaking out of a vengeful heart or even out of a wounded heart, then I’ve got to go to Jesus first.”
Rob: “Be slow to speak” to make sure that the words I share are going to be both constructive and redemptive.
Michelle: So how do you teach your kids what God’s agenda is versus man’s agenda in the first response?
Gina: I think the first thing that has to happen is God has to be in us, because that’s going to overflow; right?
Gina: From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. If I’m thinking Christ, if I’m ingesting Christ, if I’m meditating on Christ, if I’m thankful for what Christ has done, that is going to come out in how I communicate with my child: “What does God want in this?—‘You seem angry. I’m not angry with you. What is it that you’re trying to communicate to me?’”
Michelle: That’s good.
Gina: “’What’s going on? I don’t want to have an argument with you, because there’s not a reason to have an argument. I do want to find out what’s going on in your heart.’”
Michelle: I’m thinking of a roommate situation. That’s perfect to have those types of questions in place when you have a conflict, or a potential conflict, with your roommate, just asking questions like: “What’s really going on? What’s happening here?”
Rob: Right; and if you listen to what Gina just said, she’s talking about that principle in chapter one: “The Ground Rules,” with the principle of the tool of first response.
Rob: Because our child, in that scenario, is angry. She’s [Gina’s] receiving wrath, but she’s not engaging it wrathfully/she’s not engaging it defensively.
Rob: It’s not about mom being vindicated; it’s about God being honored.
If that can be our paradigm—and it ought to be for the person who’s confessing Jesus; it really ought to be our paradigm in all of life—if that’s where we’re coming from, then a first response honors God; and it helps the person, who’s struggling, also honor God.
Michelle: It’s what we’re supposed to follow, but that’s hard.
Michelle: That goes back to, you know, conversations with the Father in prayer.
Rob: That’s right.
Gina: “Who are we worshiping in that moment?”
Gina: “What am I worshiping in this moment?” You’ve said something to me that I could choose to be offended about: “What am I worshiping? Am I worshiping me?”—“You have no right to talk to me that way!” That’s going to dictate how I talk to you.
“Am I worshiping God?”—“There’s something going on in your heart,” and “As an image-bearer of Christ, I want to help you; I want to walk alongside you.” That’s going to affect how I communicate to you and how I respond.
Rob: You know, Michelle, you had said, “That’s hard!” If it’s clearly biblical, and you’re saying how hard it is, we can’t use that as our excuse not to do it. That’s actually part of the reason God puts that challenge in front of you; so you can press through the hard, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and grow in our Christ-likeness in that area. Because the other areas I hit—purity is hard;—
Rob: —avoiding the love of money is hard—but we all need to grow in our Christ-likeness. That’s going to be hard for us.
Michelle: Yes, which is why we need tools/communication tools that help us.
Michelle: What’s another one of the communication tools?
Rob: So the next one in the book is prayer.
Rob: We sometimes forget that, at any given point, we’re allowed to pray. The Scriptures call us to pray without ceasing; and yet, when we start a conversation in marriage or a parenting conversation—some conversation that may have high stakes—too often we forget we can pray right there. It may be out loud; it may be silently between us and the Lord. If it’s a trusted friend or a family member, we can pause and just say: “Can we stop this conversation for a minute and pray together? I want to continue; I’m not trying to avoid it. I feel desperate for the Lord’s help. Can we pause and pray?”
Gina: God is going to accomplish far more through my prayers than He is through my mouth.
Michelle: That’s good.
Gina: If I’m praying to Him, then the Holy Spirit is working. There’s a lot I can trust Him for. I don’t have to say anything God doesn’t want me to say. It’s when I feel like my mouth needs to be the driving machine—my mouth is the persuader; my mouth is the game changer—well, then, it usually becomes a mess.
I think we’ve come to a place in society/in culture, where saying whatever is on our mind is like coined this the term of: “She’s just being real.”
Michelle: Yes, “authentic.”
Gina: Being real does not mean being mean! [Laughter]
Michelle: That’s true. Especially on social media, I’ve seen that you have an excuse to say whatever you want to say.
Rob: God has given us speech; and He’s given us rules: “This is what this is for.” You know, you can use a screwdriver to clean wax out of your ear, but it’s not for that; and you’ll probably create more damage than not; right?
You can use words to say whatever you want to say, but that’s not why you’ve been given them. You’ve been given words so that the hearer would receive grace. You’ve been given words, not to share the corrupted thoughts, but to share truth and to share love—and to build unity and to encourage—not tear down, but to build up one another.
I think you hit social media—there is a climate that: “Words are fair game with any rules I say.” That’s true in our culture; it’s not why God gave man words.
Gina: —or fingers. [Laughter]
Rob: Right; yes, thumbs; right.
Michelle: —to be sitting there, typing away as fast as possible.
Rob: And it certainly ought not be so in Christian communication, whether that’s in marriage, or in friendship, or in church relationships, or on social media.
Gina: —or in politics, yes.
Rob: —or Christians talking about politics. Whatever it happens to be, words have rules by the One who gave them.
Rob: And we need to abide by them as Christians.
Michelle: That’s good; that’s really good.
Okay, so what is the next tool?
Rob: So the next tool is the tool of physical touch.
Rob: Though I think there are other venues for it, this may be the one out of the five that’s most specific to marriage; but I will say this would be one that we’ll use in parenting frequently.
Michelle: Yes, yes.
Rob: It’s not just the benefits of affection—
Rob: —you know, a hug, a pat on the head, a hand on the shoulder—that kind of thing—those are good, particularly when they’re healthy and they’re appropriate.
But when something isn’t going well in my relationship with my daughter or my relationship with one of my sons, it’s really incredible what: “You know, just come here for a second. I’m having trouble loving you with my words right now. I’m tripping over myself; but I love you; I want to hug you. I want you to know that.”
There will be times, even with my son, who is in the Marine Corps now, where I’ll take his hand—I’ll take it differently than I take Gina’s hand—but I’ll take his hand and say: “Do you know I love you? Do you know I’m for you? We’re going to get through this.” That physical touch can help you reaffirm what your words are struggling to do.
Gina: Would you say, Babe, that eye-to-eye contact could serve a similar purpose—
Gina: —when it comes to social media?—like, “If this is not something that you think you could have a conversation with someone, sitting in a room with them and having a conversation, would you say it this way?”
Rob: Right; so what might that look like in a non-marital relationship? It could be: “Rather than completing this conversation by texting; you know, let’s meet for coffee tomorrow night. Let’s do this face to face.” Now, you can start to have physical cues that this is not going well.
Rob: And you just say: “You know what? I’m watching your face; I’m seeing your fidgeting. What if we just stopped right now and prayed?” It’s not physical touch, necessarily; but it is physical/it is in person. You can see, physically, that it’s going south. You don’t have to get to failure before you see it.
Michelle: Rob Flood talking about those communication tools that we need; one being the power of physical touch. And it’s not just about physical touch; it could be just about being physically present. I know there have been times I’ve received text messages, where I think someone is really upset with me or I take it badly; but if we were just physically present and I could see facial expression, maybe it wouldn’t go south as fast as it did.
Hey, we need to take a break; but Rob and Gina will be back with more communication tools. Stay tuned. We’ll be back in two minutes.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. We are talking with Rob and Gina Flood about how to use our words. You know, communication is not always a natural thing between two people. It takes work!
We all need the skills of sharing, resolving conflict, and dealing with issues—you know: when your roommate leaves the lights on all the time; or your co-worker burns popcorn in the microwave for the hundredth time; and your 15-year-old is just, well, a 15-year-old.
When is the proper timing to bring up some of these issues in your conversation? Here’s Gina.
Gina: So in parenting, an example of that would be—lets’ say Rob and I were out on a date, and the older children are watching the younger children. We come home, and we find out that one of the younger children had misbehaved and made a horribly difficult night for the older children. We need to talk to that younger child.
The next day, everybody’s getting ready for school; it’s a flurry of activity. I want to send my children out into the schools with grace. I want them to leave my house, knowing that: “There is somebody back home who has my back, who’s praying for me, who loves me. While I’m encountering whatever challenges—sin, darkness, horribleness that is going on in these school buildings—I’m coming home to a safe place, where my parents are going to be excited to see me walk through the door.” That moment is not the time to tell that child what a terrible job they did the night before.
Gina: I can wait to have that conversation until they come home.
Michelle: Yes, that’s good.
Rob: Yes; the truth of this tool—and this is really the frustrating part of this tool—is that we’re all pretty good at this tool in relationships that matter least.
Michelle: Yes; right.
Rob: And we really are not good at this tool in the relationships that matter most.
If your boss says something to you that you don’t like, you’re going to be careful, as a responder, to respond well. If you need to ask for that raise, you’re going to wait: “Okay, he’s rushing off to vacation. Now’s not the time,” “I’m going to wait until he’s happiest—[Laughter]—right after he’s had his first cup of coffee.” You know, we think this way all the time, except in the conversations/the relationships that matter most. There, we throw this off: “If I’m feeling it, I’ve got to say it!”
It could be—it occurs to me that Gina and I are having trouble with something—that we really need to talk about it. I may say: “You know what? We have a getaway planned in six weeks. I’m just going to hold off, and we’ll talk about it then when we can have unhurried time/uninterrupted time.” But what do I do in the meantime?
Rob: I trust God for that—that this is not the occasion for those words.
Gina: And pray, because God is going to use those six weeks.
Gina: As you were saying that, I’m like, “Somebody out there is saying, ‘Six weeks!! What?!’”
Michelle: “That’s a long time! I can’t sleep between now and then.”
Gina: Right, right. And maybe it’s not six weeks;—
Gina: —but whatever time God is telling you to wait, He’s going to use that time. If you’re connected to Him—if you’re not nurturing seeds of bitterness and anger in the midst of that time—but you’re in Scripture; you’re talking to Him; you’re asking Him to reveal to you any sin if there is sin—maybe, there’s not sin—
Gina: —but to confess any sin that needs to be confessed; to get wisdom from the Holy Spirit before you speak.
He’s going to use that time; and He’s going to use that time in the other person, to the point where, sometimes, you’ll get to the six weeks, and you’ll be like: “Oh! We don’t have to have that conversation. That got all fixed all by itself/by God!”
Michelle: Yes, and that’s a really good point. I think many times—or I should say, in my own life, being single—I look at married folks and I’m thinking, “They’re forced to have some of these conversations”; because, as a friend, I can sit there and go, “I really need to talk to her about this”; and I show up at her house. I’m like: “Oh, now’s not a good time,” “Oh, now’s not a good time,” “Oh, now’s not a good time.”
Michelle: And all of a sudden, a few hours are gone, and I’m out the door. I’ve left and I’m like, “Well, it just didn’t come up,” or “It just wasn’t great,” or even in a roommate situation, you can still do the same thing: “Oh, now’s not the time.” That’s a hard place to be; but to remember that, number one, you probably shouldn’t ignore conflict; but the most important piece is to be praying and allowing the Holy Spirit to work.
Rob: Yes; “Now’s not the time” is not a bad thing to think or say. It’s probably bad if you always say it. [Laughter]
Michelle: That’s true! [Laughter] Yes, it is. I know from experience. I’m learning; I’m learning!
What is the last communication tool?
Rob: So the last one we haven’t spoken about yet is the tool of mirroring—
Rob: —where this slows a conversation down and it ensures that what you are saying/intending to say is what I’m hearing. It avoids the opening/it closes the opening of misunderstanding.
Rob: So what you can find, once a conversation gets going—how you say something to me may land on me differently than you intend—then my reaction is based on how I interpreted you, not on what you meant. Then we start having a back-and-forth; and we realize, five minutes later, that we’re arguing about something you never meant to say. But now, who’s right? Is it your interpretation of what you meant to say, or my interpretation of how I received what you said?
Michelle: Okay; so I’m just thinking, “Role play, right now, with you guys,”—and maybe your last misunderstanding, so that we can get a better picture of what mirroring looks like. Is that putting you on the spot?
Rob: Well, it is; but we can go there.
Gina: What was our last misunderstanding?
Rob: Well, one of the things Gina does is—she has a hobby that has turned into a business of making some products: facial products, skincare products, household products. She just had a show, just last week. She was behind in preparing those things. She needed to carve out a lot of time, and there was a lot of pressure on her.
You were making it clear you were hearing me saying, “You can’t do this.” Do you remember this?
Gina: Yes, I think so; yes.
Rob: Okay; “So, Gina, you really/you don’t need to make everything. These are your big sellers; what if you just focus on those? That way, it will thin out most of the work you have to do on your slower sellers.”
Gina: “So you’re saying that I shouldn’t have the things that I know how to make available to the people to buy?”
Rob: “Um, no, not in that way—those are the words I’m saying—but I want these people to benefit from everything you know how to make. You know these things are blessings to people. I’m just trying to figure out what needs to happen in this next week-and-a-half that’s doable. It’s not that I don’t want you to have all these great products; it’s: ‘Which are the most necessary?’ or ‘What do we have to do so you can make them all?’”
Gina: “So you’re asking me to look at the list of things that I still have to do, and see if there’s anything that I can leave off? Then, with what’s left, we can create the time needed for me to be able to get that done?”
Rob: “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”
Michelle: So Gina was mirroring—
Rob: —what I was saying.
Michelle: —what you were saying. You had started the conversation, and she was mirroring back.
Rob: Right, until we got to a place, where I was saying, “Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”
Rob: And then that’s what she responded to, and we took our step forward.
Michelle: Well done. [Laughter]
Gina: But I also need to choose to not be offended—like I could be like: “What?!
Gina: “He doesn’t think I can do that? He doesn’t think I can get this done!” I could choose to go there; but if that’s where I go, now the conversation becomes a runaway train.
Gina: Like I have to—it’s more than mirroring. I’m not just repeating back to him what he’s saying; I’m really trying to remove all of my own thoughts that I’m putting in. He didn’t say, “I don’t think you can do this,”—you know? I’m not—he didn’t say, “Gina, you’re a failure”; so I don’t want to mirror that back to him. I want to be accurate.
Michelle: Rob and Gina Flood, helping us understand how to effectively communicate with one another and with the Father.
Rob and Gina were the first people to welcome me when I moved to this area. I remember having conversations around their kitchen table—sometimes with the kids chattering or screaming in the background and other times after the kids went to bed. One thing I always noticed was how Rob and Gina practiced communicating. Words really matter; words have weight to them—I always appreciated that.
Just a recap of those tools that Rob and Gina were talking about: you’ve got your tool of first response; tool of prayer; physical touch; mirroring; and then, also, the tool of proper timing. And remember—in all your relationships, to practice grace and forgiveness. These are great reminders for all of us—not just in marriage—but for singles, in parenting, co-workers, roommate situations—just remember: “A soft answer turns away wrath.”
Hey, next week, we’re going to celebrate Valentine’s Day aboard a cruise ship!—okay; well, sort of. We’re going to hear from Gary Thomas, Laura Story, and Voddie Baucham. They’re on the cruise ship; we’re not. They’ll be talking about making love last a lifetime in the happy and also the not-so-happy times. I hope you can join us for that.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. And a big “Thank you!” to Bruce Goff today, who is our engineer. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff, who work very hard to make me sound so good. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
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