Winning the Right to be Heard

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By Mark Tetley

What gives a person the right to speak into the life of another?

I was recently at Starbucks and noticed a lady who had just placed an order as she came down the bar. She didn’t go to the end like most people do to pick up their drink, instead, she stopped close to where the Barista was steaming the milk. She began to ask the barista questions like, “How much milk do you put in that drink?” and “How long do you steam the milk?”  I continued to watch as the barista answered both questions.  (I love eavesdropping on coffee preparation techniques.) 

At first, I thought this was a very demanding client.  However, I soon realized that she was a supervisor who was getting a drink to go at the end of her shift. The barista was a trainee.  The supervisor was taking this opportunity to do some last minute coaching before she left for the day.

I realized that I was witnessing something that is lacking in many relationships today – a person speaking into the life of another who had won the right to be heard. 

Many conflicts arise in families, at work, and especially on social media when someone speaks into another person’s life who has not won the right to do so. More harm that good usually comes out of approaching someone in the wrong way. 

Here are some suggestions on how to approach someone that you want to share your opinion with. 

First, avoid speaking out of frustration or anger. 

Cool down. Think through what you want to say before you say anything.

Second, make sure you have the other person’s best interest in mind. 

Ask yourself why you want to say what’s on your mind. If you have a competitive streak in you, make sure you are not trying to win an argument. 

Then there are times we want people to act like how we would act. Guess what? They are not you. They will make different choices than you.  Make sure this conversation is about them and not about you.

Third, speak at the right time and the right place.

140 characters are not enough letters to express what should be expressed concerning differences of opinion.  Social Media is not the place to convince people of anything. Also, public forums are not the best place to do it. 

Take it offline. Call them on the phone. Better yet, talk to them over a cup of coffee. 

Fourth, speak in the right way. 

Make sure the other person knows that you have their best interest at heart.  For example, if someone thinks I am doing something to destroy the planet and they talk to me about it, I will respond much more readily if I feel that they are trying to show me how they believe I personally am being harmed by my actions rather than if they act like they care more about a tree than me. 

Fifth, go to listen not just talk.

Discover why the person is doing something. They probably have a reason. If they don’t, then they probably would listen to your suggestions. However, you will never know unless you listen first. 

Sixth, make suggestions don’t make ultimatums. 

Ultimatums are met with resistance in most cases. Suggestions, on the other hand, show the other person that you acknowledge that they will make the ultimate decision. You just want them to consider what you have to say.

Seventh,  share a hug and a prayer before you leave. 

Leave as friends. I have had some times where I have talked through some great differences of opinion with people. In most cases, we have been able to close our discussion with an honest, contrite prayer of blessing and a hug.  The relationship was not lost through a disagreement, it was actually strengthened. 

Here are two of many verses in Proverbs that gives us advice on how to talk to others. 

Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.  Proverbs 12:18

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.              — Proverbs 15:1-2 

As you love others through your conversations, may you gain a reputation for being a caring and wise friend.

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