My father-in-law just had a brain tumor removed. As a result, he’s experiencing a temporary inability to communicate as he’s used to. When words won’t come to his mind, and/or out of his mouth, he immediately gets frustrated and agitated. If the roles were reversed, I would feel exactly like him.
But what I’ve noticed is how well-meaning people make things worse, including me. In our efforts to help him, we actually hinder his efforts. Like the thorns on the tree in this post, our barbs cause him more pain than is necessary.
- We rudely interrupt him, and impatiently cut off attempts to get his own words out.
- We assume we know what he’s trying to tell us, and put sentences in his mouth. The look on his face tells us he isn’t trying to say what we thought.
- We misinterpret his inability to speak as if it somehow affects his hearing. Shouting at him like he’s deaf. His hearing is fine.
- We assume we know what’s better for him, than he does himself. Telling him what he should or should not do, while taking advantage of his inability to correct us.
Good intentions won’t turn poor communication into something positive. Talking at someone isn’t the same thing as talking to them. But when we slow down, listen twice as much as we speak, and patiently allow the other person to put things in their own words, we show simple respect. It’s downright rude to tell someone else what they’re thinking, instead of letting them clarify on their own.
I can only imagine how frustrating it must feel for someone like my father-in-law. No wonder he gets agitated. Not only does he struggle to put his sentences together, but he struggles to be heard at all.
I’m learning from reading the facial expressions and body language that tell tales of their own. Cleaning up messy communication is possible, but sometimes it’s more about what you don’t say, than what you do.
Anita Fresh Faith
Anita Agers-Brooks is a Business and Inspirational Coach, Certified Personality Trainer, Productivity Expert, Certified Training Facilitator, Communications Specialist, national speaker. She’s the author of, First Hired, Last Fired — Ancient Secrets to Make You Irreplaceable on the Job. Now available for pre-order on Amazon.
She’s a partner in The Zenith Zone, a business coaching firm. Member of the Christian Writer’s Guild, Toastmasters, a client of WordServe Literary Group, and the Simply Sue Speaks booking agency. A graduate of CLASSeminars for Leaders, Speakers, and Authors, a co-founder of The StoryWriting Studio, and speaker on circuit for Stonecroft International Ministries.
Anita’s passionate about business with integrity, healthy relationships, and issues of identity. She travels the country teaching others from her personal experiences and research. She believes it’s never too late for a fresh start with fresh faith. Anita lives in Missouri with her husband Ricky.