In one of my favorite books, Anne of Green Gables, Matthew Cuthbert says, “I kind of think she’s one of the sort you can do anything with if you only get her to love you.” While this speaks to the beauty and loyalty of the character L. M. Montgomery created, I believe this is true of all people. Love weaves magic into interactions.
In the book Crucial Conversations, the authors found that the outcome of crucial conversations (conversations where the stakes are high and emotions intense) does not depend on the seriousness or difficulty of the topic, but rather if the other person feels safe. A major part of feeling safe is feeling loved and cared about. The human instinct is to jump right into stating our complaint or letting the other person know (verbally or non-verbally) that we are upset and they did something wrong. Somehow we think communicating forcefully will solve problems. However, we far more effective and it is happier for everyone involved if the defendant first feels understood, cared about, and safe. A loving and a caring attitude positively impacts not only the outcome of hard conversations, but it can also influence people to change for good.
My mind first goes to parenting. Children respond foremost to love, relationships, and quality time. As I wrote previously about Love, Limits, and Latitude, the foundation of parenting is love. Disciplining will not be nearly as effective if children do not feel accepted and important.
This is also true of marriage. Like the old saying goes, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” How often do we respond angrily because our spouse left the cap off the toothpaste when it would be far more effective to communicate with love? How often do we let seemingly bigger and more important problems come between us when we could have and should have used the magic of love and kindness? This is also true for speaking with your neighbor, interacting with your boss or employee, and even meeting a stranger in the grocery store.
Matthew Cuthbert was a man of few words, but those words perhaps describe the most important rule in communication. Treat others with love first.