, ,

My Personal Struggle When I Am In Conflict

There’s a reason why most people struggle to have only a few solid relationships. They are hard and take a lot of work!

My wife and I just spent two weeks in Asia. We taught on principles of healthy communication and conflict resolution. Besides my counseling, this is what I do best and I am most passionate about. And guess what? On the last night of our trip, my wife and I had a conflict!  Ugh!

It happens to all of us!

When I teach the PLEDGEtalk process, I don’t promise it will keep you from having conflict, though it can decrease and minimize it. I do promise however, you will know what to do when conflict happens.

Often times I share openly about conflicts I have had. This one however, is just a little too fresh for me to share at this time. Suffice it to say, it was over finances.

Following is my own internal struggle when the conflict happened, and looking back–four MUSTS my wife and I had to do in order for us to come back to peace and love each other once again.

No doubt you have heard me say that we rarely just decide to have a conflict. Instead, it just happens. It usually takes us by surprise. This case was no different for us.

We had just completed 30 plus hours of training on communication and conflict resolving and there we were–in a struggle with conflict ourselves! Even though I teach this stuff all the time, I am always caught off guard how difficult it is even for me to use the principles we teach when conflict actually happens. I don’t mean difficult because they are hard to understand. In fact, I think what I teach is quite clear (see HERE for a brief refresher OR HERE to get the full Infographic!) What I mean by difficult is this: when I find myself in the midst of a conflict I struggle to will myself to do what I know and teach is right. But I must! Let’s make that the first of the four MUSTS!

MUST # 1:  When conflict happens we must will ourselves to do what is right and good, regardless of how difficult it is to do.

Quite honestly, when conflict happens, I often don’t want to do what is good. I just want to do what is best for me and make my case. I want to make sure they see how they are wrong and that they get it right hereafter. It’s not a helpful mindset, I know. I am just telling you what often goes on inside of me and where I was that night. Repeatedly I had to check that part of me, get it under control, and move onto the next MUST.

MUST # 2: When we struggle with conflict, we must remind ourselves of what we value.

I value relationships and speaking with love and respect. My daughter is a Kindergarten teacher and is writing curriculum for her classroom, calling it the PLEDGE of Friendship. She teaches her children that when they are mad at each other, they have to remind themselves of the value of friendship. She teaches them to remember that the person they are mad at is their friend. I had to remind myself I was speaking with my wife whom I love dearly. Whether it is your spouse, your child, your friend, your co-worker or your boss–remind yourself to value the person in front of you. It was and is a must for me if I want to build my relationships. And there is nothing I value more.

MUST # 3: When conflict happens we must refuse to give in to the impulse to interrupt or make unkind comments.

Even when we remind ourselves of what we value, we have to monitor ourselves very carefully when talking with others. This is especially true when in the midst of a conflict. The struggle is controlling the impulses to interrupt and argue our own point of view, to tell the other where they are wrong, or to use hurtful words–all of which is terribly destructive to our relationships. I am painfully aware that I am very capable of doing everything of which I just spoke. I had to monitor myself carefully to not harm my wife as we discussed our frustrations with each other. It is hard, but worth it to us both.

MUST # 4: When conflict happens, we must be deliberate to use the principles of PLEDGEtalk.

I apologize if in any way that sounds arrogant. I sometimes fear that it does. But here is what I know. As I counselor, I have observed the way people communicate for hundreds if not thousands of hours and can tell you without hesitation what they are missing. It is found in PLEDGEtalk. In the conflict with my wife, I knew I had to listen to understand her perspective even when I didn’t want to. I needed to echo back what she said to make sure I understood correctly and we were on the same page. It was then crucial that I acknowledged that I understood her. And we both needed to take turns sharing our thoughts and feelings. Thankfully by doing so, we came back to peace.

Two additional thoughts I wrote en route to the USA via our connecting flight from Tokyo:

First, we received a testimony with the following story from one of the leaders where we just completed the PLEDGEtalk training on our trip:

“This morning we talked with Mary (not her real name) who shared how she used PLEDGEtalk in her communication with her husband. For years she has wanted out of her marriage but felt she could not leave. Both spouses felt trapped. This past week they had a huge conflict and could not talk to each other. Finally, when they had gotten to the point where they were not highly emotional, they had the longest conversation they had ever had. They were able to listen to each other, understand each other, hear each other’s concerns, and figure out the root of their issues! Mary said she has never felt freer. Since then this past week they have been able to communicate every time a conflict comes up and resolve it almost immediately using the PLEDGEtalk steps! The huge wall that had been built up over the past few years was taken down. They literally feel like they have put down their weapons finally!”

The principles of PLEDGEtalk work, when you work the principles!

Second, I just watched a commercial on our plane–presumably selling the idea of how wonderful air travel can be because we can stay in touch with those we love the most. It was a story of a little boy who ran to his dad just coming off the plane. They embraced and then walked down the corridor hand in hand. In the next scene, the dad was holding one of the son’s hands while the mom was holding the other as they were running through a field of tall wistful grass and spring flowers. A beautiful moment. And I thought to myself: it’s what we all want. Everyone on earth deeply longs to be loved and in relationships!   BUT–it takes work to make it happen.

Will you do the work? Will I?

In summary, remember these four MUSTS the next time you find yourself in the midst of a conflict:

  1. We must will ourselves to do what is right and good.
  2. We must remind ourselves of what we value most.
  3. We must refuse to give in to any impulse to interrupt or be unkind.
  4. We must be deliberate to use the principles of PLEDGEtalk.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions about what I have written. Leave them below. Thanks!

(Photo Source)

,

Do You Avoid Someone If They Are Mad? There’s A Better Way…

Your boss is mad. Your friend is really hurt. Or your spouse is going to chew you out. And you don’t want to hear it.

What do you do?

Good question – most of us don’t know what to do.

So we avoid. We put off the interaction as long as possible as if in doing so, somehow the person will forget they were mad and things will get back to normal. Really? Not very likely! Ok, so it is possible you manage to avoid them long enough so they aren’t as mad or they just bury it–if you are lucky–but that only means they will be madder the next time an issue arises between you (which now really means you are unlucky!)

The next likely scenario is you do interact and handle it poorly or really bad. You either shut down, or you react back, barely even giving time for the person to say what they want to say. And things only go from bad to worse. Words are shot back and forth, no one really listens, and someone just walks away saying “whatever.” At the end, there are no winners, only two losers.

There’s a better way. Not necessarily easier–at least at first–but still a much better way.

You must keep the principles of PLEDGEtalk uppermost in mind:

Pause. Do this even if you have just a few moments. Take a deep breath and get your emotions under control.

Listen. Determine to understand the one speaking to you. They are mad or hurt for some reason. Your goal is to find out why.

Echo. When they are done talking or ranting and raving, echo back what you heard them say. I know this feels really hard to do because you want to tell him/her a thing or two. DON’T! Trust me. Instead, echo back what was said and then move on to the next principle.

Disarm. Take the next few moments to reflect on what the person said and seek to validate them. I am not saying agree with them. I am saying to communicate in some way that you can see their point of view. You understand why they were hurt or mad.

THEN —  get quiet. Don’t say another word. I know you want to defend your side; you want to explain your point of view; you want to tell them where they are wrong and why. DON’T! Again, trust me. Just remain quiet. I know this too is really hard. But you must do it. This will disarm him/her from having to argue any further. Why would they? You have already shown them that you understand and even expressed how you can see their point of view. They know longer have any reason to fight. You will have effectively disarmed the conflict.

But what about what you have to say? I know that is the next question that goes through your mind. It has gone through mine on many occasions. What do we do with what’s going on inside our head at the time?

Consider this: I can’t make someone listen to me, and you can’t either.

What we can do is show someone dignity by listening to them. And when we do, and do it to the best of our ability, it greatly increases the chances that they might be willing to listen to us. Shout back to them what you think, tear them down with your words, act as if they don’t have a brain–and just watch how things escalate.

It won’t work. You cannot force someone to hear or agree with what you have to say.

Instead, when someone comes at us who is angry or hurt, we must listen, echo back, recognize their point of view and then get quiet. There is no other way.

The last two steps of the PLEDGEtalk process are Give and Engage. After having listened, echoed, and validated their perspective, and followed that up with being quiet, this might be the best opportunity you will have to share your view on the matter. I say might because again you cannot make anyone listen to you.

But you may be surprised.

Give. If you have done your part well up to this point, they may ask you if you have any thoughts to share. And if they don’t, ask them if they are willing to hear your thoughts. With their permission, you now give your perspective. Be as respectful as you can. It is not your turn to attack or wound with your words even though that might be exactly what they did to you. Instead, when voicing your concerns, demonstrate the same kind of dignity you have throughout the conversation.

Engage. The word engage is a reminder to practice using these principles not only when a conflict occurs like we’ve just described, but all the time. It is in fact a challenge for you and I to create a culture of treating those around us with dignity in the way we communicate with them. The more people around us feel valued because of the way we speak with them, the richer our relationships will become, and the more successful we will be at navigating the waves of conflict that inevitably wash over each of us from time to time.

I wrote this post because of overhearing a woman speak about how difficult her experience was working at a call center.

Daily she was barraged with angry people on the other end of the line. Listening to her made me want to be sure I did better the next time I was one of those people! No doubt it is a tremendous challenge to work at such a place. Still, as difficult as it may be, keeping in mind the PLEDGEtalk principles as described above can make or break someone’s experience even in such a harsh and often negative environment such as this.

No one relishes the thought of facing someone who is angry or hurt, whether it is on the phone, through a text, or in person. With practice however, accompanied by a guide like PLEDGEtalk and the goal of treating others with dignity, we can once again restore peace in our relationships.

(Get our FREE infographic HERE that explains all of PLEDGEtalk! It’s a must!)

Of all the steps of PLEDGEtalk, which one are you most challenged by and why?  I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below:

(Photo source)

, ,

Running again? Do This Instead:

Ok, straight up. I am not talking about literal running–like when you put those colorful shoes on. I am talking about running from disappointment in life.

Recently when experiencing some hurt in a relationship, I suddenly became aware of something interesting that happened in me: I could feel my mind turning to other matters–almost as if it had to for some reason. I wondered why and then understood: I was shifting my focus. I was turning my attention from that which was causing the pain, to more pleasant matters so I would no longer hurt.

And at that moment I caught a glimpse of the answer to a question I have had time and again as I have worked with couples where one spouse or the other simply walked away. Oh, I know it is never that they “simply” walked away. I know there is much anger, pain, and despair. But still, I have always wondered–especially when kids are involved–how do they walk out and run from the situation? How do they deal with their pain by running?

They do what I did on only on a much greater scale. In running as fast and as hard as they can, they turn their focus to other matters, to deaden the pain.

It makes sense.

I understand.

No one likes pain.  Selah (often meaning, “pause and think of that.”) Sadly, however, that’s not the end of the story.

When running to avoid pain, we end up pushing away those whom we love the most.

We push them out of our minds; we push them away from our presence as we busy ourselves with other concerns. It is a very subtle step taken in the direction of self-preservation, often something we don’t even realize we are doing. The more it happens, the more distance it creates in the relationship, until there is a great chasm that seems impossible to ever cross again.

At this point, things often go from bad to worse. The disappointment in our relationships surfaces again and again in spite of our greatest efforts to keep our minds focused on other matters. The temptation to run to even stronger distractions seems completely justifiable. Even a must. The stronger distractions–working longer hours, drinking, sex, eating, gambling, spending money–become addictive. They are relied upon again and again as seemingly the only way to dull the pain. Ultimately they destroy, the person and their relationships.

I am reminded of the truth, “whoever seeks to save his life (by running) will lose it.” (Luke 17:33)

The solution?

We must face the disappointment, hurt, and pain in our relationships at every level.

We must learn to stay engaged without reacting or running away to other distractions. We must discover how to relate throughout our conflict in good, strong, and healthy ways to those around us even when hurt. As my son wrote in the Foreword of my book,  “…people most effectively resolve conflict when they become strong communicators.”

Understand my son is NOT saying strong in the sense of standing up for our rights and telling others where they are wrong. No, he is saying strong in the sense of not giving in to fear, but learning instead how to speak the truth with love and respect. We must be strong in the sense of not giving way to our reactive tendencies, but rather mastering the ability to listen well and learn what we might be missing in any given conversation.

This is not an easy task. It will take much work, and require much learning. But it is good, right, and God-honoring.

It is why we created PLEDGEtalk–to train people how to use principles that are vital to our everyday interactions and to guide us through the most difficult moments in conversation.

If you are reading this and have not already signed up for my PLEDGEtalk blog, you can do so at  https://pledgetalk.com and download a FREE and complete overview of the PLEDGEtalk process to healthy communication and conflict resolution guide. (And if you do get my blog but did not get the PLEDGEtalk Guide and want a copy, email me for your FREE copy:  mark@pledgetalk.com)

Don’t run or even walk from your pain. Learn from it. Learn in the midst of it. You will grow stronger when you do and discover more of what it takes to build strong relationships. Recognizing I was running from the pain in my relationship enabled me to stop in my tracks. It helped me to see that I had and always have a choice–to stay and love well even when it hurts or to run. Staying is harder at the moment, but leads to joy later; running is easier at the moment, but leads to sorrow later. We either must choose to endure whatever pain we are experiencing in a relationship as we seek to lovingly work it out, OR we become someone who now inflicts pain on others through reacting or pushing them away.

Ouch! That’s something to really consider.

If you have found this blog post or the PLEDGEtalk process helpful, would you share this with one friend today?

Thank you!

,

Is This Your Story? Here’s what to do…

Is This Your Story? You have a story – so do I. I remember being disappointed over an incident with a friend and decided to talk with him about it. Before I got even two paragraphs out of my mouth, he jumped in telling me how he saw things from a different angle. Rather quickly […]

,

A Crucial Help For Our Divided Nation

It was a very historic week with the election – one in which has revealed a deep divide in our country.

Many are rejoicing. Many are hurting. Many feel numb.

I know and have people that I love in each of the above three camps. You may also. What do we do? How do we walk this out in a good, healthy, even God-honoring manner?

We just might find some answers by looking at a method of conflict resolving known as PLEDGEtalk.

But let me start by asking some questions:

  • What should I say to my very good friend who is a part of the hispanic community who tells me he is terrified over what happens next when our new President takes office come January?
  • What should I say to several people I know who are either involved in the LGBTQ community or friends with those who are, and who also speak of loving God as I do?
  • How do I respond to friends who are exuberant over the results?
  • What should I say to my African American brothers and sisters who themselves have strong and varying opinions to the election results?

Someone else might ask:

  • How do I respond to a co-worker who says to me: “just because your people didn’t get who you wanted in the election, quit acting like little babies and help make our country strong again.”
  • How do I talk to my neighbor tomorrow who I know is excited over Trump winning?
  • What do I say to a friend who says to me: “This is one of the reasons the Liberals lost, violence is their answer when they don’t get their own way.”

Questions.

There are a lot of them these days.

How do these reactionary answers sound from those in Trump’s camp:

  • “Look, you need to get over it. This is how democracy played out this time. It is what it is.” Or…
  • “Sorry you feel the way you do, but there is a right and a wrong in each of these issues – and the right has prevailed.” Or…
  • “I know. Ain’t it great? Finally, right? Or…
  • “We didn’t like the last President – but we sucked it up, now you need to do the same!”

And how do these sound from those in the Clinton camp:

  • “Americans have blundered big time on this one!” Or…
  • “Impeach Trump. He’s not my president!” Or…
  • “I am moving to Canada.”

I hope you hear how poor each of these responses are from both camps. None of them will bring about the healing of our nation. Reactionary responses are never helpful – yet we are all guilty of them whether it was this past week because of the election results, or in everyday communication with those around us.

So I am back to my original question.

How do we respond to those who may have a very different reaction to the outcome of this Presidential election than we do?

How can any of us on either side of the fence communicate with each other in a way that is good, healthy, even God-honoring? And specifically with some of the issues that might divide us the most, how do we answer?

Can I tell you how I think we ought to answer?

I DON’T KNOW.

I don’t know how to respond. Oh I have ideas and thoughts, but I don’t really know exactly what to say. And other than giving trite, pat, or defensive answers, I would venture to say that very few of you know exactly what to say either.

So what do we do?

The first step of the PLEDGEtalk process is to Pause.

I suggest we all need to pause.

In fact one of the best things we could do as a nation right now is to pause. We need to stop what we are doing or saying in response to what has happened and get quiet.

Why?

First, we all need to let our emotions dial down.

Research shows that when our emotions are high, the rational part of our brain shuts down – and we literally can’t think straight. Right now, there are a lot of people – dare I say even most of us to some degree – that aren’t thinking straight. Rioting and violence are evidence of this. So are defensive comments. We aren’t thinking clearly as a nation. We need to pause what we are doing and saying to give time for our emotions to dial down so the rational part of our brain can come back online.

Second, we need to shift our focus.

I like what President Obama said in his response, that “we are not Democrats first, we are not Republicans first, we are Americans first–and all on the same team.” Obama and Donald Trump have very significant different political views. And yet President Obama said we are all on the same team. Why did he say that? What is he doing? He is seeking to shift the focus of each of us who live in this nation. Living in America is not about me; it is not about you. It is about all of us together who are “…ONE NATION, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

Our focus must shift so that each of us might regard one another as more important than ourselves; so that we might each put the good of our nation above our own specific interests. That’s a very tall order, but we must begin somewhere and with something other than violence and defensive comments from either side.

The third reason we need to pause as a nation is to prepare us to speak and listen well to one another.

This is the second step of the PLEDGEtalk process and applicable so that we might actually learn how to become and live out the idea of one nation under God that is indivisible.

We must humble ourselves and be willing to admit that none of us sees the whole picture of any matter that divides us. And then, we must sit back and listen–really listen–to understand each other’s perspective. There is story, and history, and reason why each person believes the way they do.

In the same way we must learn to listen well to each other as friends and family, we must learn to do so as a nation. Only then will we gain the necessary understanding to know more clearly how to communicate in a good, healthy, and God-honoring way to each other. And might I add, only when we have paused and quieted our souls long enough, will we be in a position to listen and actually hear from our God, whom we are all under as one nation.

So to everyone in our nation I say, can we have some time of silence, please? Can we all collectively pause? Will you refrain from reactivity, or violence of any kind in action or words?

And will you join me, in taking some time to let our emotions dial down, to shift our focus to give greater consideration to our brothers and sisters, and finally to prepare our hearts to really listen – so that we might begin to understand each other on a deeper level than perhaps ever before, and learn how to become that indivisible one nation under God?

My challenge to you is this:

After some time of silence, pick one person this next week and show him/her this post. Then ask if they would be willing to share with you why they believe what they believe – in an area that is different than you. What is the reason or story behind what they think? Be careful to keep one thing in mind however: do not respond with your thoughts about theirs – unless they drag it out of you! Instead, just listen. Your goal is to understand them in a new and deeper way. If you say anything, do so only to clarify what you hear them saying. Be intrigued and ask as many questions that you can think of to learn all that you can.

Then, respond to this post, or email me at: Mark@pledgetalk.com and let me know what you learned from the experience.

If you were helped by this article in any way or provoked to deeper thought, would you share this with others?

I welcome your thoughts and ideas below. Thank you for reflecting on what I have written.

Click here to learn more and download the entire PLEDGEtalk process of conflict resolution.

 

Conflict – What Good is It?

Most people don’t like conflict, but it doesn’t have to be all bad. In fact, there is much good that can come out of conflict if you know a healthy process to work through it like PLEDGEtalk and keep the following three opportunities in mind:

1. Conflict is an opportunity to grow in your understanding of others.

Saying we all want to be understood is like saying we all need air to breathe. Every time we speak, we’re looking for those who will listen and understand us. But how often are we sure to return the favor when listening to someone who wants us to understand them? Listening to understand is even more rare for us to practice when we are in conflict.

Think of the last time you experienced tension with someone you care about. There was a reason he or she was upset. Do you know the reason? Or let me say it this way: are you ONE HUNDRED PERCENT sure you know the reason? If not, then there is more to learn and more to understand. Position yourself to remain in the listening mode, and ask the person you are speaking with to explain their perspective on what happened. Beware of your eagerness to share rather than listen. Work hard at staying focused on what the other is saying. Take time to draw them out even further, by using phrases like: “Can you tell more more?” or “Help me understand what you mean by ______”

When you make time to focus on the other, you will learn and discover more about them and what took place causing the tension. This will go a long way in helping to resolve any conflict AND prevent it from starting up again.

2. Conflict is an opportunity for personal refinement – becoming a better person.

If there is one thing I know about me, it’s that I haven’t arrived yet. If I live until I am 99, I have no doubt I will still have room to grow. Daily I see areas in my life I would like to see changed. When in a conflict with my wife or children, those areas come to light even more.

My daughter asks if I would stop what I am doing when she is talking to me so she knows I am listening. I chide myself for her having to ask. I know better. It is the very thing I teach others to do!

My son challenges me to think through the fears I experience when he and I talk about stressful subjects. Ugh! Why am I afraid? I help people to work through their fears, and here I am held up by mine.

My wife is trying to help me on a project and I get short with her because she keeps interrupting my work on a separate project. Why am I am so impatient at times like these?

Rarely am I in tension with another where I don’t also experience an opportunity for personal refinement. Will you keep in mind until you die, that there are still areas in your life that need to change so you become a better spouse, parent, or friend? Will you take time to reflect on where you might be wrong, and what areas of change God might want to be revealing to you? Will I do the same?

3. Conflict is an opportunity to practice respect and love for others.

There is a proverb that says: “Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop before a dispute breaks out” Proverbs 17:14 (NIV). The next time you find yourself at odds with your spouse or a friend, STOP!

Now think: do you really want to talk to them in a hurtful way like that? Do you really want to scorn and shame them with your tone? Doing so may feel good at the moment, but will only lead to damaging your relationship.

You stand at a crossroads. You can default back to how you normally handle conflict, or you can do something different and show respect and love in how you relate. That “something” will look different in each situation. Start with working on your listening skills as previously mentioned. Maybe you need to humble yourself and apologize for the way you were speaking or what you said. Maybe you need to let go of something and forgive. Perhaps you both need to take some time apart to cool down and pray, asking God to show you your part in what went wrong. I know that’s not easy – but it is right and good. Ask God to change your heart and bring it in line with His.

Seize the opportunity to practice respect and love by choosing to do what is right rather than just what feels good. It is a must for growing healthy relationships.

What else would be helpful to keep in mind when we find ourselves at odds with our spouse or friend? Leave a comment below:

,

The One Thing To Say When You Hear “You ALWAYS..!”

You’ve done it, I’ve done it, and you’ve had someone do it to you. They used ALWAYS or NEVER. It’s never a good experience when someone uses those words as they point their finger at you in anger. It always feels unfair and wrong when they do. We think, they should never use those words like that! It always causes us to react.

I remember being on a walk with my wife one day and she did it. And I reacted. And while telling her how wrong she was for using the ALWAYS word, without realizing it, I used the NEVER word! We are all guilty!

So what do you do? What do you say when someone is angry, points their finger and says “You NEVER _________ !” (Fill in the blank.)

After hundreds of hours of helping couples through these very emotional moments, and examining this over and over in my own relationships, I can tell you there is only one thing to say:

Nothing! Say absolutely nothing – at least at first.

And you know why.

Everything inside of you – just like everything inside of me is already experiencing a nuclear reaction and it’s about to explode.

“That’s not true!!!”

And that is not going to help matters.

Instead try this.

Keep your mouth shut and think:

He or she is obviously feeling quite strongly about what they just said. They may or may not have really meant always or never. But that is beside the point, really. I have to let that word fly by as I focus instead on what they are trying to communicate – even if I think they are doing a poor job at it.

Why are they so mad or hurt?

Why are they using such strong language?

There has to be a reason, and I must make it my goal to find out. I have to get to the root of what they are saying so I can understand them.

THEN say something like:

“When you use the word ALWAYS or NEVER I find myself reacting inside, but I don’t want to do that. I want to understand instead why you said what you did. Help me understand why you sound so angry or hurt?”

Let’s think that through.

By saying the first part–about them using ALWAYS or NEVER–you are acknowledging that you heard what they said. That’s important. We all want to be heard.

You are also revealing something about yourself: you are reacting to their words internally but trying not to externally. That shows you are thinking and actually working at the conversation–and that’s a good thing. Furthermore, by saying you really want to understand them, you indicate that this person matters.

Having mutual regard for each other and what they have to say is critical to resolving the conflict.

I know some of you might say: “I already know they are mad. Why would I ask them to tell me more?”

It has to do with story.

The person is upset about something. Love dares to go where it is risky–even when it might get hurt. (Tweet this) If there is every any hope to resolve the conflict, you have to listen to each other’s stories without defensively reacting.

You must listen to understand.

Only then will you learn about each other as well as yourself. Only then will you gain the vantage point necessary to appreciate each other’s perspective leading to a resolve in your differences.

So the next time someone accuses you of an ALWAYS or NEVER, don’t say a word – at least at first. When you have your emotions under control, tell them you want to understand why they said that – you want to hear their story. Then remind yourself that your goal is to hear and appreciate their perspective.

So what advice would you give the rest of us when someone shouts at you:

“You ALWAYS…” ??

,

3 Important Musts When You are Angry

I have been doing a lot of thinking about anger lately. Maybe it’s because of how often I wrestle with the emotion myself. I also see it frequently in the couples I counsel, as well as in people’s lives in general. And finally, I am sure it is because of hearing our son say on our recent visit with him, that he feels like we weren’t very honest with each other about anger in our family. That gave me pause to think!

I have to be honest–it also made me angry. At least a little. I was thinking to myself: What? This is what I do for a living – help people work through the anger in their relationships! But I think what he said was true. Alas, I keep learning!!

Anger is a primary emotion we all experience to one degree or another at various times.

If you think you never get mad or angry you are only fooling yourself. I mean that quite literally. We may call it by different terms like frustration or irritation. We might say someone has gotten under our skin or ruffled our feathers. We say such things to minimize our experience of anger, even as we are already trying to control it. These are all however, a form of anger.

Is anger good or bad? It is neither. It simply is. It can lead to good or it can lead to bad. That’s the more important matter.

Anger can lead to good when a person is mad over an injustice being committed and the anger motivates him or her to do something that benefits others. Anger can lead to good when a person has it under control and engages in necessary conversation to bring about health in a relationship. Anger in control can further the good of society or relationships.

Anger can lead to bad when it is expressed by a person who is out of control and self-focused. Wounded feelings, broken relationships, abuse, violence, war, and even death are the result.

Anger out of control brings destruction by serving one’s own purposes.

Let’s review: I get angry; you get angry. Our anger can lead to good, or bad. Which it is depends upon whether or not we are in control or out of control, and if we are using it to benefit others or ourselves.

Decide NOW before the next time you are angry: Do you want to be known as someone with self-control or out of control? Someone who benefits others or wounds them?

I assume your answer would be the same as mine: we want to be people with self-control and people who benefit others rather than wound them. Still, it is important that we think hard on this. Agreeing to this is easy; living it out takes a great deal of effort.

There are three musts: be strong, be courageous, and remember the golden rule.

First, be strong and walk away if you are about to hurt someone. It takes only seconds to wound someone with your words, but it can take a lifetime to heal that wound! (tweet this!)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21 KJV

Second, when ready, be courageous enough to be honest with others about what you are feeling and why–in the hope of bettering those relationships. Before you do, I would strongly recommend you read or re-read my last blog, What Do You Do With the Mad?

“…speak the truth, in love…” Ephesians 4:15 NLT

And third, remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you plan to speak to someone about your anger, think of how you would hope that same someone would speak to you if the roles were reversed. Would you hope they would give some thought to what they would say ahead of time? That they would deliver their message with some degree of self-restraint? Then do the same for them.

“…be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry…” James 1:19 NIV

What would you add as a MUST to keep in mind when angry? Leave a comment below!

, ,

Big Announcement!

Today we are launching PLEDGEtalk, a how-to for when communication really matters!

For the past 6 years, Zerrin and I have been teaching the Madly In Love Marriage Conference. Through learning PLEDGE, couples have learned how to communicate well and process conflict in a way that brings them back to love.

During our conferences we have been asked many times: can we use this with our kids? Can I use PLEDGE in my work place? Will this work between my friend and I?

With great excitement, we declared YES! It will in fact work in all relationships!

Beyond the questions, we began hearing stories of people who were using PLEDGE as a family, or teaching children in their classroom, or using it with their team at work. A mom shared how her kids are learning to talk through their conflict at the early age of 8 and 6! A politician spoke of how he is using it with his constituents. Teen-agers replied to their parents, saying: “does this mean we don’t have to yell and fight anymore as a family?” A man told us how it had made a significant difference in conference meetings at work.

With great anticipation, we began to see a larger impact to be had in teaching the concepts of PLEDGE.

After much discussion, reflection, and prayer, PLEDGEtalk was birthed!

It is our mission to teach people in all walks of life how to communicate well when it really matters.

Whether in normal conversation or tense situations, there is a way–a right way–to communicate. It deepens and heals relationships. That’s PLEDGEtalk.

We will continue to teach this to couples and seek to be a blessing to marriages.

But now we can share PLEDGEtalk with marriages AND families.

In a church, we can speak to entire congregations! We can also go into the workplace where we will teach and train teams how to better their relationships with PLEDGEtalk and be more productive.

Thank you for your interest in learning how to love well in the way you communicate and resolve conflicts!

Mark Oelze

Author:  The PLEDGE Of A Lifetime

Creator of PLEDGEtalk

, , ,

Give This Gift To Everyone Around You

Time and again we have heard people say: can we use PLEDGE in any relationship? And we want to shout YES YOU CAN! We have heard of people using it with their children, with their friends, with their parents, in their workplace, and even in politics!

Recently I was struck again with the thought that everyone has a story inside them. I was saddened and convicted that too often I don’t stop to hear their story. Sometimes, I even forget there is one. Nevertheless, there are deep things going on inside each of us. There is a story about our life growing up. There is story that has been lived out in our relationships as adults.

There is story each day we could tell – if there was someone to listen.

And that’s the catch…

if there is someone to listen.

Hear me in… the pain I feel. The anger I exhibit. The depression I experience. The addiction I cannot overcome. Hear me in those moments when I attempt to open up, as feeble as it may be. Hear me in the confusion that washes over my face when you talk to me. Hear me when I am silent, not knowing what to say. Hear me when I talk non-stop, keeping you at bay.

There is story waiting to be heard at every moment, with every person.

Taking time to listen is a gift we can give day after day, every day.

It is a gift to our spouse, a gift to our children, a gift to a friend, a gift to someone we work with, a gift to our neighbor, and a gift to the stranger on the street or the check-out person in the store.

This week I had the honor and privilege of being the guest author/speaker in my wife’s class with her second graders. It was great fun! I got my little kid fix! My wife is teaching PLEDGE to these children. As I was talking to them about pausing when they are mad, I asked if they had ever heard of the Golden Rule. Most had not. I taught them about treating others just like we would want them to treat us. They didn’t like it when someone said mean things to them. They didn’t want to say mean things to others either. Instead, they just want someone to listen when they are mad or hurt.

Everything we needed to learn for life we learned in – ok, second grade.

We all just want someone to listen.

When we are mad, or hurt, or afraid, or sad, or confused, or discouraged, or excited and happy and encouraged – we want to share our story with someone – if they will just listen.

So today, look around you. Watch for those moments when someone, some where, in some way is saying: “Will you hear me in _______?”

Ask them questions like:

How are you?

What is happening?

How are you feeling about ____?

If they give you a quick, brushed off answer, say: “No I mean it. How are you really?”

And give them the gift of listening to their story!

Share with us how you listened this week!