Safe churches and respectful communication go hand in hand. Maintaining respectful communication, and setting out the expectation for respectful practices, is crucial if we wish to nurture safe and welcoming environments at church.
If you have ever been on the receiving end of disrespectful communication, you will know that can feel threatening and intimidating. Those are not safe feelings.
What Is – and Isn’t – Respectful Communication?
In “Communicating Respectfully,” an online tool created by M.A. Carter Consultancy Pty. Ltd., respectful communication is explained as:
- treating others with attention, thoughtfulness and kindness.
- being mindful, courteous and patient with others.
- valuing differences.
- recognizing that a person has as much right to the way they think and feel as we do.
- valuing and honouring others for whom and what they are.
- being considerate of others’ principles, beliefs and values.
The same resource goes on to point out that respect involves not doing certain things, too. Respectful communication means refraining from:
- criticizing, discriminating, blaming and shaming.
- denying, intimidating or discounting others' feelings or actions.
- punishing someone for not being perfect.
- embarrassing, disgracing or hurting others.
Words Can Hurt
I’d hazard a guess that many of us can remember words that hurt us deeply. Or perhaps we recall with regret words that harmed someone else. Unfortunately, it seems that incidents of disrespect stick with us, often for many years. When communication is disrespectful repeatedly with the intention of causing harm, fear or intimidation, especially over a prolonged period, not only does it hurt, it is considered to be harassment or abuse.
Words Can Heal
Proverbs reminds us that words also have the power to heal: “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” I recall certain moments of trouble or worry in my life and how the kind and comforting words of a stranger warmed my heart and brought me peace.
In my workplace in the healthcare sector, respectful workplace initiatives have helped raise awareness of the need to be respectful in the way we talk and behave. Respectful workplace training, entitled "It's a Matter of Respect," is helping to reduce incidents of harassment and bullying among employees.
Respect belongs everywhere, though, not just at work. Let’s help ensure that our communication in our churches and our homes is also “a matter of respect.”