John Wesley said, “Christianity is essentially a social religion . . . to turn it into a solitary religion, is indeed to destroy it.” But living as part of a faith community can be difficult. Differences in personality, upbringing, opinion, and belief can all lead to conflict, and unskillful communication compounds conflict exponentially. Observe these four rules to minimize miscommunication.
1. Be honest
Ephesians 4:25 is often cited as a prohibition against lying. While it does contain a phrase about dishonesty, the verse is built around a different imperative: “Speak!” It’s not enough to refrain from lying; the truth must be spoken. The opposite of lying is openness, not silence. Problems cannot be solved unless they are expressed. Any speech that hides or distorts the truth—exaggeration, embellishment, innuendo, or passive aggression—fuels conflict rather than resolving it.
2. Keep current
Deal with today’s problems today (Ephesians 4:26). But before you start airing your frustration or dictating terms, ask some questions. Make sure you have all the facts right. Don’t be afraid of a little silence, and don’t outrun the Holy Spirit. Allow yourself and others time to process new information. A rushed conclusion is often a faulty conclusion—taking action based on old information can compound the pain.
3. Attack the problem, not the person
It doesn’t take much—just a single unflattering adjective. And it can feel really good, but cheap personal attacks end up painful and entirely unhelpful. A comment made in passing can haunt someone for a lifetime, even if you’ve long since forgotten about it. Use words that zero in on the conflict and are solution-oriented. Remember: accusations build walls, but questions build bridges.
4. Act, don’t react
Emotions run high in moments of conflict-induced stress, but it takes two people to argue. There’s no such thing as a one-sided fight. You cannot change anyone else’s heart, but you can change how your respond or initiate communication. You can elevate the discussion all by yourself. Refrain from lashing out emotionally, and you can keep the discussion from spiraling into an argument.
While some measure of conflict is inevitable, observing these four rules can help mitigate conflict caused by miscommunication.