My standard approach to conflict resolution resembles a pillow fight. It’s less confrontational, more cushioned, and filled with plenty of fluff to lessen the blows. Verbal pillow fighting requires a special touch. In fact, it’s pretty amazing if you think about it. Not everyone has the ability to hold a conversation while simultaneously measuring potential misunderstandings and weaving in on-the-spot damage control. Not everyone can direct dialogue through a continuous gauging of conversational climate in order to smooth over the slightest ruffling of feathers before anyone’s goose gets cooked. It takes talent to circle talk and spider web your way around some pretty messy stuff and successfully get your message across.
It also takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a lot of mental space.
Sometimes I wish I could shut the filtering process off and simply speak my mind.
I admire that about my husband. He is a US Marine to the core and very in touch with his inner drill sergeant. I cried more in the first six months we were married than my entire life, but in the six years since, we’ve taught one another a great deal about communication and conflict resolution! I have proven to be a stubborn learner, but he’s slowly teaching me that being assertive is not the same as being aggressive, nor is being direct the same as dictating. He’s taught me that neither diminishes my womanhood and both can honor my God.
He also taught me that too much cushioning causes as much damage as too little cushioning. No-one wants to spend a second round in the ring because you wasted the first one dancing around the truth.
Saying the hard things with so much filler that my message is lost in the fluff is a deeply in-grained habit. The decision to speak less and say more will require plenty of practice, but I’m already experiencing the freedom it brings. It frees me from the pressure of finding the ever-elusive perfect words and perfect way in which to share and the impossible burden of preventing every potential misinterpretation. It frees me to trust God’s ability to speak through me and leave the results in His caring and capable hands. It frees me to trust others to hear what I say through the lens of who I am, and have a little faith in who they are too.
Sometimes a situation demands something a little more straightforward than a pillow fight approach; sometimes a situation requires me to choose the assertive route instead of avoiding the potential fallout. After all, no matter how pretty our words or pleasant our tone, speaking the truth in love still hurts. It hurts the one who hears it. It hurts the one who says it. It’s why too many of us prefer to turn a blind eye than engage the elephant in the room.
Whether it’s a coworker or boss, a sibling or spouse, a classmate, church member, or friend, I encourage you to value yourself and your relationship enough to confront and resolve the issues at hand. We need every person God places in our lives; let’s not lose them for fear of risking their reaction. Trust your God to lead you, and leave their response in His hands.
Speak less, say more, and leave your pillows at home.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” -Ephesians 4:15