Eliminate Regret From Harmful Communication

Jun 28, 2016, Written by Sue Miley

Harmful Communication

“He hung up on me,” I muttered out loud in my empty office. I can’t believe he actually hung up on me. The total incompetence is one thing, but hanging up on me–unbelievable!

My outrage was complete. I didn’t consider for a minute that my words cut like razors, and the phone returning to it’s receiver was an act of defense, not defiance.

This response from the IT manager, in my past corporate environment, was one of many; sometimes on the delivering side of it, many times on the receiving end.

Back then, decades ago now, I hadn’t read the words from James 3:5-6:

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Yes, my words were like fire, but my perspective at the time, didn’t quite prioritize the way it should. In my mind, the offense of the runaround, regarding extremely important business projects for my department, were much more important.

Using Our Words For Harm Is Not God’s Call To Love

Thankfully, Christ woke me up. I learned that words are a weapon that leave scars, sometimes for life. In our business, we all have priorities and goals to be met. Today, through Scripture and scars of my own, I realize that it is more than worth the time to think about how I say something. Both in content, body language, and emotion.

Through studying Scripture, and 20 years of working on it, I have found that taking the time to communicate appropriately is more effective in gaining your objective to begin with and is more loving always. Here are a few practices I use to be more effective (and kinder):

  1. Do not communicate when you are really frustrated. Wait until the charged emotion has dissipated.
  2. Write down what you want to communicate. If it is a matter of organization and staying focused, I may just write bullet points to remember and pull me back to point. If it is a matter of emotion, frustration or anger, I may write out my thoughts in a full narrative to get it off of my chest. I would never send it. I would then re-read it and pull out the important points that I do need to retain in my actual communication.
  3. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This helps me a lot because I believe we are all human and in most cases, we have similar thoughts and feelings. If I can put myself in the other person’s shoes, I can better understand what happened, and relate more with how they were feeling. Jesus says to take the plank out of our own eyes before we worry about the splinter in another’s eye. This was a life changing verse to me.
  4. Practice your delivery. Try to always focus on the issue not the personal character of the person you need to talk to. They may not be a good fit in a certain skill area, but it doesn’t mean they are just totally incompetent. The more you can focus communication on the issue or behavior, and not the character of the person, the more productive your communication will be, and the less harmful it will be.
  5. Sometimes this process results in saying nothing. If I go through one or more of the above steps, sometimes I find that I overreacted and I just need to let it go. This can really save relationships, that according to James are at risk if we let our tongue do it’s thing.

As small business owners, we will have frustration with staff, vendors, and even customers. Learning to tame your tongue and communicate in a Godly way will produce much less regret, minimal retribution, and result in fruitful outcomes.

Do you ever regret your words? Have you ever wished you could retrieve and email or text? Let us know other things you have done to eliminate regret from harmful communication.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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