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Good Communication Principles

"...that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me..." - John 17:23 NIV

    1. LOVE: God's love is unconditional (agape love). This means that a person operating in God's love is not dependent on anybody else changing in order to please them. They always forgive and let go of any grievances to restore love as soon as possible. However, unconditional love does not mean enabling someone else's sinfulness. Love with no conditions is the absolute highest priority and must come first for good communication or problem solving to work. If unconditional love is not established, a negative, angry, or complaining person could control the conversation and waste time (Philippians 2:14 - Do all things without complaining and disputing, - NKJV). The main goal of any participants in communication should be complete ownership of all of their own: actions, internal sensitivities and feelings, perceived offenses, hurts, bitterness, attitudes, and desires. (Proverbs 12:16 - A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. - NIV). Unconditional love and impartiality are owed to everyone, including ourselves, under all circumstances no matter what anyone else has done (Matthew 5:44 - But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you... - KJV; Mark 11:25 - "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." - NIV; James 3:17 - But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere - NIV).

    2. IMPARTIALITY: Hear all points of view from any participants. Don't take sides or make assertions for or against anyone's point of view until sins have been identified in a complete Conflict Resolution Process (below). In a discussion, don't act upon assumptions or entertain preconceived notions about another person's motives. Trust that the other person is being truthful from their perspective until proven wrong. Test everything according to actual empirical evidence, not hearsay (1 Thessalonians 5:21 - Prove all things - KJV, Luke 1:2,4 - that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught., Acts 17:11 - they...examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true., Proverbs 24:23 - partiality in judging is not good, James 3:17, 1 Corinthians 13:7 - [Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres - NIV).

    3. CONSIDERATION: Answer every question with an attitude of humility and love to the best of your ability. This is basic consideration of others. Offer grace. Don't judge the attitude in which a question is asked, or be offended by a question, or defend yourself before answering a question (1 Peter 3:15 - Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone, Matthew 7:7 - "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.", Colossians 4:6 - know how to answer everyone, James 1:19 - be quick to listen, slow to speak, James 3:17 - wisdom that comes from heaven is...considerate, Matthew 5:23-24 - if you...remember that your brother has something against you...First go and be reconciled to your brother;" - NIV). Never say, "I don't want to talk about that" unless a different time is agreed upon to talk. Passive-aggressive behavior (e.g. silent treatment, avoiding answering a question, avoiding conflict, etc.) can be just as destructive, if not more so, than aggressive or verbally abusive behavior (Proverbs 18:1 He that separateth himself seeketh his own desire, And rageth against all sound wisdom - ASV).

    4. EMPATHY: Make sure the other person in a discussion feels heard (Philippians 2:3-4 - in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others, Proverbs 12:15 - a wise man listens to advice, James 1:19, - be quick to listen, slow to speak, James 3:17 - wisdom that comes from heaven is...considerate, submissive, full of mercy, Matthew 5:23-24 - if you...remember that your brother has something against you...First go and be reconciled to your brother;" - NIV). Ask questions for clarification. Ask if it conforms to the "Golden Rule" (principle #7) to prevent wasting time going off on a tangent. If necessary, especially with a very defensive person, replay the other's argument or position in your own words to be sure it is understood.

    5. HUMILITY: Encourage feedback, evaluation, or rebuttal of your argument, behavior or position by the other person. Don't become defensive (Colossians 3:16 - teach and admonish[correct] one another, Hebrews 3:13 - exhort one another daily - KJV, Proverbs 12:1 - he who hates correction is stupid, Proverbs 19:25 - rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge, Matthew 5:23-24 - if you...remember that your brother has something against you...First go and be reconciled to your brother;" - NIV). Apply impartiality (principle #2) to their rebuttal.

    6. UNITY: Find any points of agreement you can and build on these with the eventual goal of full agreement in the truth (1 Corinthians 1:10 - be perfectly united in mind and thought, Hebrews 3:13 - exhort one another daily - NIV).

    7. CONSISTENCY: Test every situation, idea, point of view or opinion, attitude, or principle according to the "golden rule". This can quickly help to solve or clarify almost all problems and expose wrong motives (1 Thessalonians 5:21 - Test everything, Matthew 7:12 - So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets - NIV). The test is usually in the form of a question putting the other person in someone else's shoes or reversing roles (Proverbs 26:5 - Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.). When you refer to scriptural principles like the "golden rule" you are humbly pointing any authority away from yourself so that all participants feel more free to think and reason, hopefully coming to conclusions for themselves or even as a group, with the benefit that everyone can see what the thought process is. This is usually a better way of correcting someone than directly blaming, accusing, judging, or "pointing the finger" at them.

    8. CONFIDENTIALITY: Keep things confidential unless there is agreement to share certain things with others. Otherwise, if there is a conflict based on a proven sin and the person has an uncaring/non-listening attitude, follow the Conflict Resolution Process below which slowly reduces the confidentiality of the sin by expanding the group of people involved in a careful, methodical process. (Matthew 18:15 - If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you, Proverbs 17:9 - He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends - NIV).

Conflict Prevention

    According to the conflict preventive nature of Matthew 5:23-24, it seems that Jesus is saying that all Christians should always take the first initiative and responsibility for peace and love by continually being thoughtful of others first above themselves. It doesn't matter who it is or who one might think is to blame. Blame is not an issue at all. We should drop our worship to God and go immediately to try and reconcile, being gently tolerant and forgiving of whatever offense the other person may perceive, right or wrong. Reconciliation is accomplished by applying the communication principles above, testing all actions and words according to Matthew 7:12 and Luke 10:27b: "Love your neighbor as yourself" - NIV, with a humble, question oriented attitude, rather than a statement or judgment oriented attitude, etc... eliminating contentions and problems before they can ever get out of hand.

Conflict Resolution Process

    Note: Try to get all three of the following verses included in your church or organization's Bylaws under Conflict Resolution and Prevention. All three must be used together in an attitude of restoration, reconciliation, and love and not punitive judgmentalism.

    Matthew 18:15-17 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." - NIV

    Matthew 5:23-24 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." - NIV

    Galatians 6:1-2 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.- NIV,,
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Scripture quotations marked "NIV" are taken from HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R). Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.