When You Don't Have the Words

Have you ever been in a confrontation with another person where you lay everything out on the table, your heart, soul, and feelings, and they say nothing in return? You feel like you pieced together your best possible argument, delivered it with intention, and crickets. My response is usually the same, especially when directed towards my husband, who gets the worst of my dramatic tendencies, "HOW CAN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY?!"

Just a quick disclaimer - that outburst also never works, much to my dismay. 

You see, all of us have something to say, but our likelihood to speak comes down to whether or not we feel safe to respond and have confidence that our response will produce a result. 

When you're invested in community with another human being, it is so important that you are aware of the environment you create during a time of confrontation. Relationships are full of conflict and hurt and joy, but when emotions are running high, the success of having an important conversation is variable. If you're an external processor like me, we feel the need to bring up whatever is on our hearts, whenever it suits us. Whether it's hurt feelings, an unkept promise, or a general dissatisfaction that my needs aren't being met, bringing the right thing up at the wrong time is still the wrong thing. 

In turn, a lack of fulfillment in my relationships produces a behavior in my own life of shutting down or trying harder. 

In her book Nothing to Prove, Jennie Allen wrote, "Numbing and striving are two indicators that we are trying to find our worth in something other than Jesus." When I don't know how to respond to my circumstances, my first instinct should be to go to Jesus to help me find the words. Avoiding the pain or working harder to overcome it are reactions that both end in the same way: a lot of silence and/or wasted conversations. 

Not only will a deeper level of communication with God produce a stronger response in our own relationships, we will also find more grace in dealing with friends and spouses in their responses back to us. Sometimes I don't have the right words to foster healthy communication, but in the same breath, my lack of intentionality can create an environment that doesn't feel safe for the other person to respond. Both are problems, but both are fixable. 

When you're struggling to find the words for a stressful or confusing situation, I encourage you to do something that I'm only beginning to understand the value of: wait. Pray. Think. Give the other person time. Few good things come from a quick response full of empty words, but a lot of good can come from an intentional response that invites the other person into dialogue, rather than pushes them out.