How To Stop an Argument Before It Starts

by Donna Jones, COMPEL Training Member February 20, 2024
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Ephesians 4:25 (NIV)

During the first year of our marriage, my husband, JP, and I would often come home late from our jobs, put on our pajamas, and eat vanilla ice cream in front of the TV.

One evening, as we snuggled on our sofa, JP got up and headed for the kitchen. When he walked back into our family room with one bowl of ice cream, I was surprised.

“Where’s my bowl of ice cream?” I wondered aloud.

“What do you mean?” JP was genuinely confused.

“We always eat ice cream together. Didn’t you know I’d want ice cream too?”

“How could I know you wanted ice cream unless you told me?” JP said innocently. He was sure his logic was airtight.

News flash: Conflict is rarely logical.

I shot off the couch, stomped into the kitchen, and jerked open the freezer door. Maybe it was exhaustion or low blood sugar; I have no idea why a ridiculous episode over ice cream made my blood boil. But it did.

At this point, JP uttered a single phrase that changed our relationship forever: “Expectation without communication leads to frustration.”

Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Most of us never consider a failure to communicate our needs, wants and expectations as a failure to speak the truth — but it is. As a result, we create conflict in scenarios where truthful communication could help us avoid conflict.

Of course, “put off falsehood and speak truthfully” (Ephesians 4:25) also means lies or speculations are off the table. Any word not rooted in truth is not from God and will damage a relationship. More subtle, though, are the words we don’t speak, like silent expectations, details we conveniently omit, secrets, or desires we hope our loved ones will “just know.” Perhaps this is why Ephesians 4:25 includes the words “each of you” and “must”: For the believer, truthful communication is not optional.

Admittedly, speaking the truth may feel uncomfortable if we’re unpracticed in expressing our expectations and desires. We’d rather drop hints like breadcrumbs and hope our family and friends figure out what we need. However, when we communicate our expectations on the front end, we eliminate exasperation on the back end. We trade relational problems for relational peace.

Expectation without communication will lead to frustration — if not immediately, then eventually.

The following night, JP and I sat snuggled on the couch. But this time, as he made his way to the kitchen, I called out, “I’d like some ice cream. Would you mind getting me a bowl too?”

Conflict averted and evening enjoyed!

Lord, make me aware of the unspoken expectations I place on others. Help me to forsake falsehood and communicate truthfully and graciously as Your Word instructs me to do. Give me calm where there is chaos, and help me obey You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


For more help in handling conflict in a healthy way, grab a copy of Donna Jones’ book, Healthy Conflict, Peaceful Life: A Biblical Guide for Communicating Thoughts, Feelings, and Opinions with Grace, Truth, and Zero Regret. No matter your relationship status or what season of life you’re in, conflict can happen to anyone! This book is for anyone who wants to learn how to have healthy conflict and better communication in their relationships.



Are you accidentally making your conflicts worse instead of better? Take the free quiz to find out.

Connect with Donna for more helpful resources at, on the That’s Just What I Needed podcast, or on Instagram @donnaajones.


Ephesians 4:26-27, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (NIV).

Think back to your last conflict. How did unspoken expectations play a part? What expectation or desire will you graciously communicate today, and to whom?

We’d love to know your thoughts about today’s devotion! Share them in the comments.

© 2024 by Donna Jones. All rights reserved.

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