Recently, I’ve had some work done on my house. I’ve been trying to avoid some small problems from becoming even bigger problems and liabilities… and hoping my home will become a bit more energy efficient along the way. The work has required bringing in various trades to see it all done right. Let’s just say, they haven’t been DIY projects.
Given the scale of what we’ve needed (HVAC overhaul, roofing, upgrading to double-paned windows), the jobs have been marked by one common practice – tearing out the old to install the new. With each project phase, and watching it all happen, something has repeatedly stood out to me: demolition and construction are radically different, and not just for the obvious reasons.
Allow me to elaborate…
Demolition is super quick (it only has a few steps)… whereas construction can be painstakingly slower in comparison (because it almost always has multiple steps, that have to happen in a particular order and often bring inconveniences with the waiting).
Demolition is typically simple (just get it out)… whereas construction is complex, involving a design and the execution of a plan (especially if you want it to turn out like you hope it will, what you intend the end result to be).
Demolition usually doesn’t require much precision (you just swing in the general direction)… whereas construction almost always demands attention detail (or you pay for it later with time, money, pain, or all the above).
Demolition is messy (with debris falling and flying every which way)… whereas construction involves purposed prep/cleaning of the work space (or you get a pretty nasty finished product).
Right about now, you’re probably thinking… “Man, you are giving way too much thought to this.” Perhaps. But it has me thinking… about something else. Communication. You know, how we relate to the world around us. I’m not just talking about what we put “out there” but, more importantly, what is understood and set in motion by what we have expressed.
Think about it… Your conversations. Your Facebook posts. Your comments. Your tweets. Your reviews. What are they characterized by? Demolition or construction?
Are you prone to ranting and venting?
Do you find yourself having to explain or clean up what you’ve said with, “I know I shouldn’t have said that, posted that… but I was just so frustrated/angry!”
Are you known for, or do you pride yourself on, proving a point?
Do you find yourself arguing with people on social media, preferring to call it “debate”?
Are you passionate about sharing your opinions, making sure people know exactly where you stand on things?
When something or someone frustrates you, hurts you, angers you… do you commonly share about it in a public way?
If any or some of the above rings a bell, I submit, your communication might be in the demolition column.
I know. That word. Demolition. It sounds so extreme. But is it?
Ask yourself. Really ask yourself. What has my communication accomplished… what is resulting from what I am expressing?
Are things, people, situations, you… enhanced, more meaningful, better, because of what you share? Or are things ending up in a bigger mess, a pile of rubble stacked with increased pain, further fractured relationships, perpetuated anger, alienated connections? And that’s the big stuff… Consider some of the more subtle possibilities (that you might not even be aware of): people afraid to go beyond surface level with you (fearing things blowing up), individuals hoping you don’t find your way over to their social media feed to “share your take”, people not knowing what version of you they are going to get (so they prefer you at arm’s length).
If the “demolition shoe” seems to be fitting… know that you are not alone. Why?
Well, my take is… demolition is just plain easier (darn it), and often our most natural and initial reaction. Allow me to compile reasons from the list above: it’s super quick (it only has a few steps)… it’s typically simple (just get it out)… it usually doesn’t require much precision (you just swing in a general direction)… BUT, as in the case of home demolition, it’s messy (with debris falling and flying every which way). Is this what we really want? Is that where we want our communication to lead us?
Our tongue is powerful. Spoken or written, what we express determines our direction and destinations. The Bible nails it on the head:
Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. (James 3:2-5)
In the end… the effectiveness of our communication is evaluated and proven by what it produces and sets in motion.
So… What do you want? What’s going to take you in the right direction and aid you in your pursuit of desired destinations? I submit, it starts with taking hard and honest look at how, and what, you communicate. (Hint: in order to be truly objective about this, you probably need to ask for feedback from people around you who will shoot you straight.) If change is needed (and truly wanted), then you’re going have to make changes.
I submit the following, for your consideration…
Slow down – When you are feeling hungry, angry, lonely and/or tired (H.A.L.T.), choose to be quiet and refrain from venting verbally and/or posting to social media. The extra time will help you get calibrated.
Have a plan – What are some values and practical guidelines for the way you want to communicate? Write them down and keep them handy (on your cell phone?) as a reminder of what and how you want to express yourself.
Pay attention to detail – Recognize that the words you use matter. The precision of your words, the tone of your communication, the terminology you choose… these are the tools, set in motion by your choices, that demolish or construct.
Clean things up – Get radically committed to ridding your communication of toxic factors (sarcasm, cynicism, derogatory/cuss words, being dogmatic and judgmental, stereotypes, etc. – I think you get what I’m talking about).
Lastly, with all the above, we can’t be the best version of ourselves without help. Get a friend you can be brutally honest with (about your shortcomings and about how you want to be). Make them a “favorite” in your cell phone contacts and reach out to them for accountability. Remember what James said, our tongues are “a tiny spark [that] can set a great forest on fire”. When the fire starts to spark up, and trust me, it will, you’re gonna need help to douse it out. Trust me… it’s worth it.