Open Communication Without Control

Mar 31, 2012, 5:02 PM |

The basic idea of this blog is that our communication is like a gate. When we open a gate, (showing by our animated words and actions that we are interested in the other person) we allow good words to flow out and in when we converse with people, but when we close the gate (by our actions and attitude showing people that we don't want to talk cause we're grumpy etc..) we cut off the purposefulness of others to talk to us or get to know us better.


Recently, my son, Clark, challenged me by saying, “Mom, can I answer freely, or are you going to keep badgering me until I give you the answer you want to hear? I don't think you're listening to me. I think you're just trying to force me to agree with you. I find it very hard to talk to you sometimes because it seems like all you are concerned about is being proved right!”

Clark was right. I wasn't listening to him. I was trying to control him, to force him to think and behave my way. I was unwilling to consider the situation from his point of view. In my self-righteousness, I had put up a high gate of control that had created a barrier between us.


A gate of control is erected when we seek to manipulate, trap, or coerce others in to agreeing with our perspective. The key of relinquishment demolishes the high gate of control. Relinquish means “to give up possession of.” We humbly recognize that all knowledge, strength and greatness, as well as the right to rule, belong to God and not to us.

Relinquishment doesn't mean that we regard all opinions as equally valid, because the Bible teaches that truth and falsehood exist. We must instead relinquish the prideful attitude that says, “I know better about truth than you do,” and “I am smarter, stronger, and better than you, so do what I say!” No. We must place truth on the table with trembling hands, acutely aware that the grain we offer is received from the Giver's stores and our small pickets can hold only a miniscule portion of His bounty.


Of all marvelous things, perhaps there is nothing that angels behold with such supreme astonishment as a proud man. ---Charles Caleb Colton


How do we tear down the gate of control? 1. We must relinquish our claim to superiority.

2. We must relinquish our right to rule others by coercion, manipulation, or force


Don't boast about being wise, strong or rich, but instead boast in the Lord and tell of all that He has done for you. The Hebrew word translated boast means “to glory in.” We display Him, hold Him up, and show Him off to others so that they, too, will recognize His splendor and superiority. Humble people give up the right to control. Even at our strongest, we don't even equal God's weakest. He is that much stronger than us.


If you put up a high gate of control by bragging on your own wisdom, strength, riches or position, and try to coerce or manipulate others to do things your way, God will oppose you and, at some point, “bring you down.” If, you open your gate, relinquish your pride, and bow low before God, He will life you up and clothe you in wisdom, strength, riches, and honor. The choice is yours: honor yourself, or be honored by Him. Bar your gate in pride, or in humility throw it wide open.


Do you use questions to control and manipulate others rather than to genuinely request information or seek clarification? Make effort to ask a non-defensive question so that it will invite others to share thoughts, feelings, and beliefs without fearing we will use the information against them.

Ask Innocent questions-which are not tainted with underlying opinions or agendas. They are eager to learn and understand. They have no goal beyond wanting to clarify the other person's perspective.

Ask Neutral questions-which are calm and relaxed. Make the tone of your voice stay the same or go down at the end of the question instead of going up. This kind of question gives the hearer permission to respond honestly, without feeling asked for a specific response.

Ask Focused questions-which puts the other person in the spotlight and focuses on helping us see things from their point of view. Focus on,”What is this person thinking and feeling and why?”

Ask Open questions-which promotes a genuine invitation for the other person to speak honestly about what they think and feel. It indicates that you are open to hearing even negative feedback.


Counterfeit Questions

A question is counterfeit whenever it does anything other than invite people to share openly. Here are common types of counterfeits:

1.State an Opinion: A question that subtly presents and underlying opinion is a counterfeit question. For example, the underlying message of the question,”What did you do that for?” is actually, “I don't think you should have.”

2.Hide an Agenda: The question, “Don't you have homework tonight?” may carry the agenda, “I want you to turn off the RV.” “Isn't that music too loud?” may indicate, “I want you to turn it down.”

3.Require the correct answer: A question is counterfeit when it is phrased in such a way that it leads to the response the asker wants to hear. What do you think the asker want to hear when she inquires,, “Do you think I look good in this dress?”

4.Present No-Win Choices: Questions can be phrased in such a way that they offer a choice of no-win responses. Amy asked Jack, “Are you planning on being late again or are you going to think about someone other than yourself?” Jack is in a no-win situation. Either answer incriminates him.

5.Set a Trap: Questions can be used as clever weapons to entrap others. Consider the question, “Do you want to know a better way to do that?” IF we say no, we indicate that we are unwilling to learn. If we say yes, we acknowledge that the other person's way is better before we even know what it is. Most of us are unable to think fast enough to respond without entangling ourselves.


Avoid counterfeit questions. Instead, use questions in the proper way to open up channels of communication.