When life hands you lemons … make lemonade! If you add the right ingredients, the same transformation may occur in your communication with a loved one or business associate. Practice following this easy recipe, and taste the sweetness of resolving painful differences. Proverbs 16:24 “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Confront: The struggler squeezes all the juice out of the lemon. But wait, give it time to ripen – don’t try to resolve conflict when the emotions are high. Set a time to meet with the person when the emotions are calmer. Thus plan a time to meet with your offender to release the juice from your lemon. The recipe reads: When one of you feels sour (hurt, frustrated, or unjustly treated), don’t hold it in.
Communicate feelings: Express your anger or an unmet need by squeezing out the truth in a loving, non-accusatory way. Use “I” statements when you share the problem (“I’m feeling betrayed. Would you be willing to listen?”). Describe only the upsetting words or behaviour without criticising character. Do not accuse, belittle, call names, or criticise. Proverbs 12:18 “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Ephesians 4:15, 26 “Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.…‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
Comply: The listener is a pitcher receiving all the juice. The person being confronted indicates a willingness to listen (to receive the rebuke without becoming angry or defensive) and sincerely seeks to hear the speaker’s pain. Respond with a willingness to give undivided attention (“Yes, I will listen”). Do not interrupt. Hear the problem to the “last drop.” Above all, don’t make excuses or become defensive. Ephesians 5:21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Confirm: The listener fills the pitcher with water with no acidic words. The listener now paraphrases the problem back (repeats what is heard) without reacting negatively. Affirm what is being said (“You are saying that you felt betrayed last night when I did not defend you? Is this correct?”). Agreement with the facts is not necessary; therefore, do not attempt to justify anything. Ask if your restating of the problem is correct. If it is not, seek to understand what was said and repeat all. Proverbs 15:31 “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.”
Change: The struggler asks for sugar. If the receiver gives the sugar, the entire flavour changes! After feelings have been delivered and received, the struggler is allowed to request a change in behaviour. Willingness to listen and change behaviour becomes the sweet ingredient for developing intimacy in the relationship. The struggler makes a request (“When someone criticises me in front of you, would you be willing to express emotional support by making a comment on my behalf or by walking away or asking the person to not talk about me when I’m not present to respond?”). The listener identifies some acceptable responses for use in the future. The listener is willing to please the other with a commitment to change. Philippians 2:4 “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Comfort: The listener mixes the sugar and lemon juice well so there is no hint of the sour lemon. After a change in behaviour has been agreed on, the listener expresses sorrow over the struggler’s pain and expresses appreciation for the opportunity to resolve the problem. Address the struggler’s pain (“I am so sorry my actions hurt your feelings and caused you to feel betrayed”). Applaud the struggler for approaching you. Appreciate being given a chance to change your behaviour in the future to improve your relationship. Proverbs 25:11“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”