5 Times It’s Better NOT to Communicate in Your Relationships
Silence Used to Be Golden
The generation of my parents placed a high value on “being strong” and dealing with problems internally rather than quickly talking and sharing with others when they are troubled. The “strong silent type” was a very attractive characteristic to that generation, especially in males. My parents lived through the terrible deprivation of The Great Depression as children and then through the trauma of WWII as young adults. Most of that generation lived through considerable deprivation, uncertainty and loss. I imagine that the value for being strong and silent was a very valuable coping mechanism to help them deal with the depth of suffering that most of us now living in the US have never experienced on a national scale… (Those who have experienced personal trauma and loss would be an exception.)
Communication Is Highly Valuable but Not Always Beneficial
The generation we are now living in places high value on communicating feelings – communicating for understanding and connection. Nothing Hidden Ministries also places a very high value on communicating in openness, transparency and love as vital ingredients to intimate relationships. Although honest and vulnerable communication is generally highly beneficial to healthy relationship, not all issues can be solved through communication; I believe there are times when it is better to remain silent than to communicate. Of course, there is a danger in going too far to one extreme or the other on the spectrum of communicating or remaining silent.
I was recently speaking with a group of young men and I asked the question, “When is it better to be silent and not communicate?” Here are a few of the conclusions we came to:
1. Communicating negative thoughts and feelings about another person.
Generally it is not good to quickly communicate negative thoughts and feelings that we have about another person. Rather it is good to look inside first to see if part of the problem is ours to deal with. We need to own and deal with our own stuff first. When we have completed this first step, and the interpersonal issues persist, then it is good to talk and work out the issues as best we can.
Sometimes we adopt the false idea that other people are obligated to change if we communicate that “our feelings are hurt” by something they are doing or if we communicate that we “need” something from them. While it can be highly valuable to a relationship to communicate how we experience the relationship, the idea that the other person is obligated to adapt to my feelings can easily create a relationship where the other person is controlled by my feelings rather than by what is good for the relationship.
2. Complaining and criticizing that is labeled as “verbal processing” or “just venting.”
Doing this will only be destructive to us, to our relationship to God, and to the people we are criticizing. It is so much more life-giving to approach a conversation with the idea of trying to make things better rather than pointing out the other person’s faults. If you need to talk to a third party about a problem with an acquaintance, then make the discussion about getting ideas to improve the situation.
3. Communication that creates heated conflict.
Waiting for the best timing to communicate about problems can make the difference between bringing understanding and connection or creating more conflict. When things are heated and emotionally intense just waiting until both individuals have had time to calm down can be difficult but critical to having a fruitful discussion. Conflict resolution will be very difficult until we communicate with the right mindset, that is, the mindset that I want the best solution to be the outcome rather than my need to be right or my need to have things to be done my way.
4. Communicating everything that God speaks to you personally.
Perhaps one of the most important reasons to remain silent is that sometimes talking prematurely robs us of a crucial, life giving work that God wants to do in us apart from any person. When we talk to others to get confirmation for something that we already have a strong personal conviction about or for something about which God has already spoken clearly to us, we may be creating a dependence upon people above God. We may be facing something that requires much courage and we want the support of others when God’s direction doesn’t feel like enough for us to stand on. Other times we may want to tell people about the things God has revealed to us simply because we want others to think highly of us. If we turn to others when the Lord wants us to be responding directly to Him, our private life with God and our confidence to hear and obey God will be undermined. Being able to silently follow the Lord and the conviction of our own heart is one way to develop a strong inner confidence that is very attractive to others. That inner confidence will cause others to trust and even follow us.
5. And of course, we need to be silent and listen when another person is talking.
Keep these 5 points in mind as you pursue growth in your communication skills. It’s just as important to know what to communicate as it is to know how to communicate well.
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— … A time to be silent and a time to speak.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1,7
by Barry Byrne