It Ends Like It Begins…The Big BUT
Do you have a complaint about your spouse? Are the kids driving you crazy? Do you ever feel the need to talk with a family member about his or her irritating behavior, hurtful words, or lack of consideration? Great idea; do it! Talking leads to resolution and a stronger relationship; BUT (and this is a BIG BUT) remember…how you begin the conversation is probably how the conversation will end. In fact, family researcher John Gottman, PHD, suggests that the first three minutes of a conversation not only indicate how the conversation will end but impacts the health of your long-term marriage, even predicting who will be married in six years times (Read Predicting Divorce From the First Three Minutes of Conflict Discussion for more). Scripture refers to this principle as reaping what we sow (Galatians 6:7-9). It’s true in our family conversations:
- If we sow blame at the start the conversation, we will reap defensiveness.
- If we sow accusations at the start the conversation, we will reap more counter-accusations.
- If we sow verbal attacks at the start the conversation, we will reap verbal attacks in return.
- If we sow judgments at the start of the conversation, we will reap “well you…” and more negative comments. (“I’m not a puppet, you’re the puppet.”)
On the other hand…
- If we sow an acknowledgement of positive actions done in the past, we reap gratitude and more positive acknowledgements.
- If we sow recognition of positive intent, we reap thoughtful discussion about ways to act on that intent.
- If we sow politeness at the start of the conversation, we will reap politeness in return.
- If we sow appreciation at the start of the conversation, we will reap open ears and further appreciation.
- If we sow positive solutions in the conversation, we will reap cooperation and mutual problem solving.
- If we sow an acknowledgement of our personal responsibility in the situation causing stress, we will more likely reap an acknowledgement from the other person of their responsibility as well.
The fact is: we reap what we sow, even in family conversations. So, if you have a difficult subject you need to discuss with your spouse, parent, or child, take a deep breath and think. Think about the best way to start the conversation with grace, gentleness, acceptance of personal responsibility, and acknowledgement of love. After all, the conversation will end as it begins. The family you reap will grow from the seeds you sow.