April 30th, 2009

Four Rules

I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday, but yesterday I was in a group of guys that were discussing the “Four Rules of Communication.” It’s a well-known topic at our church, and it happened to come up in our normal study schedule.

Here are the Four Rules of Communication:

  1. Be honest
  2. Keep current
  3. Attack the problem not the person
  4. Act, don’t react

The idea behind these rules is that every human relationship will run into rough spots, disagreements, and plain old outright fights. While those things can’t be avoided, these rules can help the rough spots be smoother. The rules are designed to solve problems.

Be honest – Makes sense. You can’t solve problems if the problems aren’t being presented as they are. Solving fake problems doesn’t help anyone.

Keep current – This one has two elements to it. First, the idea is to deal with things as they come up. If you dwell on something and let it fester for months, the problem multiplies and gets harder to fix. The second part is letting go of the past. If a problem has been brought up and dealt with and forgiveness has been granted, don’t bring it up again in future discussions. “I can’t trust you in this situation because of what you did in that situation, even though I forgave you for it” doesn’t work.

Attack the problem not the person – Again, just makes sense. Calling into question the other person’s abilities or calling them names will make them defensive and make the situation even more thorny than it already was. Our pastor likes to say, “Problems were meant for solving,” and if you’re attacking the other person, you’re not working on solving the problem.

Act, don’t react – This is the one I have the hardest time understanding, but I think it has more to do with dealing with the actual issues, not reacting to the symptoms or hurt feelings. I’m going to react to things differently when I’m tired or sick or excited or in a good mood, so reactions aren’t a good judge of “what needs to happen.” Acting on what I know is the better way.

I wish I could remember everything that we discussed. The guys had some good insight that I know I’m forgetting here. It’s always a challenge to me when the subject comes up because I know I’m not the best communicator. I avoid problems and hope they go away, and that isn’t right. I need to learn how to meet problems head-on and deal with them.

The Bible is full of all kinds of practical advice alongside its spiritual guidelines. I think the four rules stand on their own pretty well, but in case you’re interested, they are based on Ephesians 4:25-32:

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS
NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.
BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.