I love asking questions. I’m a curious person.
I think this is a good quality, because I used to be pretty bossy. (I’m the eldest child, so it came naturally for me.) But now I try to keep my opinion to myself and just ask questions. I just love finding out how people make decisions and why. I love how people become creative and imaginative when allowed to be themselves.
Not giving advice has become fun for me.
My sister and I haven’t seen each other since Christmas, and this week we spent a lot more time together because I’m home. Once entering her world, I had a lot of questions for her.
She got irritated with me.
I started to get frustrated with her irritation that seemed to be without reason. So instead of telling her that, I asked more questions to find out what was going on.
She got a tad bit more irritated with me.
I was confused.
Honestly, it’s laughable now. The problem is that we have different styles of communication. Neither one is right or wrong. But my way irritated her, and her way frustrated me.
At that point, giving advice sounded like more fun. I wanted to tell her she was wrong and I was right. And then she said it: My questions were making her feel like a client and not a sister. Oops.
I wanted to know what was causing our disconnect, but now I had to figure out a way to communicate without asking questions. And I didn’t want to fall back on old patterns either (the bossy, giving advice thing).
Deep breath. Think. Let her talk first. Remind myself that I’m committed to this relationship as much as she is. Here is how we worked things out even though we have different ways of communicating.
1. Commit to working it out no matter what.
What I love about my sister is that she won’t let us stay disconnected. Our connection is a priority in her life. She values our connection and will tell me what it’s like to be in a relationship with me. And I will tell her what it’s like to be in a relationship with her. We choose to keep moving toward each other, even when we are scared of the risk of disconnection.
2. Commit to giving the other person time to talk until they have made their point.
When we allowed each other to communicate and speak freely from the heart, we each had to ask hard questions and eat humble pie. We didn’t force each other to speak; we waited because that’s the key to a deeper connection. I can’t make her answer my questions any more than she can make me not be curious with questions. But we may choose to do what’s uncomfortable for us because we value our connection. We also choose to respond by using self-control and not reacting out of emotion.
3. Commit to think of the other person higher than yourself.
Unconditional love says, “I want to do what makes you feel safe, cared for and significant.” My questions made her feel the opposite. She felt like I was showing my disagreement by questioning her. Even though that wasn’t my heart, I apologized. She also didn’t want to stop me from being myself and cause disconnection, so she chose to adjust, to allow me to ask more questions. We worked together by making adjustments to ourselves so we could meet the common goal of connection. We chose to control or change ourselves for the sake of the other person, which is the opposite of making the other person change so we can feel safe. The responsibility for me is on me, and the responsibility for her is on her.
4. Commit to calling out the best in each other.
Part of our talk included us communicating what we know each other to be, even though we weren’t being in the situation or the heat of the conversation. We care more to help the other be the best by empowering each other and avoiding saying things that tear down. Addressing behavior is only to say, “That’s not who you are; you are better than that.” We are not defined by our worst moment. We are defined by how God sees us, and we should remind each other of those things.
5. Commit to letting the other person be different.
Even though she does things differently than me, I have to allow her to be herself. She gets to be herself, and I get to be myself. I choose to trust her when we are working things out. Because if I don’t, then every time she does something differently than me, I will accuse her of breaking my trust just because she didn’t communicate or do things the way I would.
6. Commit to leaving our relationship up to God.
Once a conversation is over and connection is strengthened, we must seek God for our comfort, edification and correction. God often shows me more about our miscommunication later. It’s not bringing up the past if you are bringing up the situation again to share the log in your own eye. Relationships get better when we learn how to love from the One who is Love.
Loving each other well requires doing whatever it takes to protect the connection. We can’t control the other person in any way, including how they communicate. We need to create an environment that is free of control, fear or punishment. Isn’t that how God relates to us? He’s fully committed to loving us. He demonstrates that love by communicating with us in a way that models how we should communicate with each other.
I choose to commit to connection through communication because it’s the only way to love and be loved.