One of the traits of human beings that sets us apart from other creatures is our ability to communicate both concrete and abstract ideas. However, since we are imperfect beings, we can never do this flawlessly, and so we are never really sure if we have effectively communicated our ideas.
The media through which we communicate can have a profound effect on our understanding of the message. In other words, everyone has a preferred communication style. Effective communication requires that we are sensitive to each other’s approach. For example, my message tends to be more clear, concise, and complete when I communicate via written language. Likewise, I absorb information much better when I read it than when someone speaks to me (those who know me will notice that I’m a slow responder in verbal conversation). However, many of those with whom I communicate on a regular basis are more verbal, and although I struggle with this, I must adapt if I want to keep the lines of communication open and clear.
One of the biggest problems in communication, however, is an unwillingness to listen. James 1:19-20 states the following: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James tells us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak” to push us to purposefully absorb the information being communicated. What if what we hear at first is not what is intended? We are likely to draw conclusions and/or become angered more quickly and easily. When we come to anger quickly and in a manner not in accordance with God’s righteousness, even if we do ask for forgiveness from the communicator, we have tainted that relationship and degraded our ability to communicate. This can and does prevent us from doing the work of God and can even be a hindrance when spreading the Word.
The following are some recommendations to keep the lines of communication clear when we are communicating among one another:
- If someone is verbally communicating, listen to the entirety of the message before weighing in. Few things can shut down cooperation as quickly as when people talk over each other. Proverbs 18:13 states, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
- When you communicate, do it with grace. There are times when we need to be abrupt and direct with each other in order to speak the truth. However, we must always strive to show grace to those with whom we are communicating. Colossians 4:6 states: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
- Don’t answer someone’s message with a knee-jerk reaction. Be thoughtful in your response. Make sure you fully understand the message before replying. Keep in mind Proverbs 12:18, which reads, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Being wise may require asking for clarification.
- Learn how to communicate in a variety of ways. Only being able to effectively communicate via email, or only being able to verbally communicate, can hinder our cooperation with each other. Although not the context and intent of the passage, perhaps the apostle Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 9:22 can be extended to our communication practices: “I have become all things to all people . . . ?”
As we work out the things of God throughout our lives, I would challenge us to understand the importance of communication and strive to better understand how we speak and listen directly impacts our effectiveness and relationships with each other.