by Deb DeArmond
“Tact is the act of making a point without making an enemy.” – Sir Isaac Newton
I love this quote. Turns out Isaac Newton was not just a gravity genius. He apparently was a relationship guru as well. Must have come from a big family.
I was raised as an only child; my only sibling was 16 years my senior. By the time I was two, he had gone off to college and never returned to our home state. We grew close only after I grew up. So, as a child, I had my folks all to myself. I never needed to call “shotgun” to ride in the front seat, never had to split the last cookie with a younger sibling and never had the heartbreak that comes with being asked to sacrificially yield the last of the ice cream to another child in the family.
Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it? I won’t lie—it was a great life. One I discovered (later in life) my friends envied. But it turns out, there was a dark side.
I never learned to share. Or at least to share graciously.
When required to do so in the midst of a school event or neighborhood pow-wow, I was known to be demanding, bossy and loud about what I wanted. Later I learned it was behavior considered immature. Who knew?!
Experience had taught me differently than it had my multi-siblinged comrades.
I eventually developed the ability to effectively relate to others, but it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t overnight. And now I wonder how I ever avoided being pushed out, pushed down, or simply outcast. I’m very grateful looking back that it hadn’t gone that way.
Now, as a full-grown adult, I watch as we all struggle with the urge to “have it our way” even in the relationships that are most important to us in life: our marriages or family members – adult kids, sibling in-laws, aunts, uncles, even grandparents have their preferences. It’s hard not to campaign for the thing you want. It can be tough to set aside your own preference without feeling sulky and sullen.
But it’s also not okay to simply let the loudest voice lead.
How do you cope? For starters, stop being the loudest, and start being the clearest voice— to bring a sense of peace and order when the conversation begins to give way to self-interest without regard for the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of others.
We can have candid, open discussion without damaging the people we love the most. Effective communication skills and using the Word of God as our guideline is a foundation that will stand every time.
Here are two Spirit-led reminders, designed to help us walk in love.
Show deference. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves…” Romans 12:10 (NIV). Putting the interests of another above our own is counter-intuitive to the flesh. Deferring to others will always cause people to sit up and take notice, because it’s not how the world does things. So this action serves a dual purpose, as it draws attention to our great God.
Be willing to give up your own preference. “…[Love] does not insist on its own way…” (1 Cor. 13:5 ESV). Spirit-led love is not Burger King. It’s not always going to go our way. Set your preference aside and listen. Be willing to be changed by what you hear.
And remember: how you say what you say matters. Volume does not equal leadership.
So, remember, tact counts. Just ask Isaac. Turns out that apple bonk on the head must have loosed some real Godly insight!
“When I was a child, I spoke about childish matters, for I saw things like a child and reasoned like a child. But the day came when I matured, and I set aside my childish ways,” 1 Cor. 13:11 (Passion).
About the author: Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. A writer and professional speaker, Deb addresses topics related to the family and women. Her books include: Related by Chance, Family by Choice, I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last and Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! Deb’s books help readers, whether engaged, newlywed, or long-time married, create the life God meant marriage and family to be. You can read more from Deb at Family Matters/Deb.
Join the conversation: What challenges do you face in communicating with family? What has God taught you about this?