Salting Our Conversations with Grace

Let your conversation be always full of grace,
seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Colossians 4:6

One Sunday night I dutifully posted the lesson plans for my Composition class online. I uploaded a worksheet and everything. On Wednesday, I got an email from a parent asking me where the plans were for her student to complete that day. I almost shot back a reply to “look on Renweb,” where else? But then I felt a hand on my shoulder saying, “Slow down, pardner.” Thankfully, it wasn’t the ghost of John Wayne, but rather the prodding of the Holy Spirit.

So I double checked Renweb and not a thing I had posted was up there! What?! I must not have hit “Save” when I finished. (Sad omission for a former pastor, huh?) Thankfully, I had double checked before sending a snarky reply. I graciously replied and attached the missing materials.

The whole thing reminded me that we all need to slow down in our email communication. Once sent, we can’t take them back. Is this a problem here at Veritas? I’m not sure. I get mixed feedback. Some say it’s great, others are finding things a bit blunt, direct, or even harsh. Due to the fact that we can’t pick up on a person’s tone of voice, some messages can even come across as aggressive – which I know is no one’s intent.

Steps to Grace-Filled Emails:
First, write out what you’d like to say to get the needs taken care of before you forget them.

Then, back away a second and see if you started the email in a tone that was too abrupt. Think of a greeting that you might like if you were receiving the email.

Third, have you ever considered that every email is an interruption (for all of us)? We are all living busy lives. So, though our need seems pressing, the other person may not be available to meet the need as quickly as we need it. It would be helpful to make our requests in a way that demonstrates this consideration of the other person’s time.

Fourth, stop a moment before you hit “send”. Reread for any edits. More importantly, parents, if emailing a teacher, stop and recheck the plans for the parents and attachments to the lesson plans on Renweb. You may find one more thing to ask about or may answer your own question. Either way, the classroom teacher will only receive one email instead of a series of emails asking bits and pieces. The receiver of multiple emails often feels besieged. And, if you answer your own question, you don’t end up feeling foolish asking for something you have already received.

Finally, we all appreciate having the need of the hour addressed so that we can continue with educating our children. It is a relief to get something resolved. I have had to learn that it is helpful to express this appreciation on the front end. You know, something like, “I’d like to thank you for taking the time to help with this request. I know you have a dozen other things to do this morning. Thanks again.” I’m still not great at it, but such a proactive gratitude communicates that I believe the best about the other person.

This last thought — believing the best about the person with which I am communicating — goes a long, long way. When I start reading an email convinced that the person writing to me has our mutual best interests in mind, I hear a very positive tone of voice in my head. In contrast, when I have a negative belief about the email or its sender for whatever reason, my perception of the email is almost always overwhelmingly negative.

I believe any email from our Veritas family—faculty, parents, fellow administrators and board members—is meant for the best. I try to remember that when emails are delivered directly or sharply, it is likely because the sender was experiencing frustration, fear or a difficult situation that led to their abrupt tone. I was taught to look at it this way – this person must be very frustrated or he/she would not be so abrupt. In such circumstances, I was coached to pray that God would allow me to be a servant of blessing to my fellow brother or sister.

We are on the same side, working for the same goal. Guard your heart and mind so that Satan doesn’t trick you into seeing the other person as an adversary.

May God bless our communications with one another and may He make our love for each other increase and overflow. (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

Working together for the good of our children, Christopher

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