January 15, 2020
Did you hear about … ? It’s a pretty common phrase used in all parts of society — and sometimes its intent truly is of concern or to celebrate a milestone moment with others.
However, many times it serves as the opening of a conversation that turns negative quickly and is more about hashing out the juicy details of a situation met with disapproval by those passing the information along.
When I’ve been part of these conversations, I’m tempted to dredge up old hurts caused by the group or person being discussed. It’s easy to want to share past stories of missteps that reinforce disapproval of whatever fresh situation has occurred.
At the same time, it’s true that processing difficult situations — aka venting — is an important step in dealing with frustrations, complications and conflicts.
But what is a fair amount of time for venting? And can we learn to talk out what is upsetting us in one setting and then let it go from there?
Is it possible to maintain proper and healthy processing methods with a safe person to productively work through a situation in order to move forward and not let the conversation turn into a complaining session?
I believe it is possible, but it takes prayer, discipline and individual intentionality.
It also takes a plan.
Step 1 might be that we all agree to only use the phrase “Did you hear about … ?” when sharing something positive to celebrate or a true concern.
For instance, did you hear about my friend Sarah completing another marathon? What a great accomplishment!
Did you hear about how well David is doing in his new pastorate? They really love him there.
Did you hear that our good buddy Dan Ireland died on Christmas Eve? We sure miss him in Alabama. Please continue to pray for Polly and the entire family.
Step 2 might be that when a conflict occurs, only the people involved in the situation are allowed to talk through it and about it — and the goal in talking about it is resolution.
And if a specific conflict occurs between individuals, the two individuals talk it out together rather than talk about each other to other people.
Step 3 might be that when someone attempts to pull us into a conversation about a situation and breaks the goals of Steps 1 and 2, that’s when we use the deflection method with our response.
We let them finish what they are saying initially and then respond with something positive about the situation or change the subject entirely.
We could say, “Oh, that makes me think of …” and change the direction of the conversation.
Or we could say, “I know that has to be so frustrating. I wonder what we can do to help figure it out.”
From there, shift the discussion to positive options, toward solving the issue rather than letting the conversation turn into a negative complaining session.