You cannot NOT communicate. You are always communicating something. I heard this in a college class almost 20 years ago, and it stuck with me. Unfortunately, most of us make too many assumptions and spend way too much time following those assumptions about others’ communication. We too often fail to pay enough attention, or any at all, to our own communication abilities.
Realizing this, you can deliberately choose to improve your communication skills. To start, consider these 7 Essential Elements of Communication to be aware of as we seek to improve our ability to communicate.
We judge ourselves by our intentions. We can’t really know for sure the intentions of others. But when we’re honest with ourselves and with a lot of help from the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12), we can better know our own intentions.
We judge others by their actions. Since we can’t truly know another’s intentions, we usually base decisions about others on their actions. Maybe this is one reason showing faith by actions (James 2:18) is so crucial.
People want validation & acceptance. We just want to be accepted and understood. This does not necessarily mean agreement with another’s opinions or actions, but it does mean a willingness to try to understand their perspective. Fortunately, when we fall short in this, God fills the gaps (John 6:37).
Broad shoulders are invaluable. Having broad shoulders means not being offended easily and forgiving freely. Do You Have Broad Shoulders? Developing them improves your ability to communicate by removing the barriers of unforgiveness and misinformation.
The Golden Rule is a terrific communication tool (Luke 6:31). Simply treating others how you want to be treated will improve communications in your relationships significantly.
Seeking first to understand makes a huge difference. Before insisting on being understood, seek to understand others. Doing so not only improves communication, but it keeps you from looking foolish (Proverbs 18:2, 13).
You can only change yourself. Replace old, ineffective habits with new habits that build relationships (Ephesians 4:22-24). Let your mind be renewed continually (Romans 12:1-2). Develop and grow the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
A look at improving our communication skills is lacking to some extent if we fail to focus at least a little on how we handle conflict. Conflict is not only necessary, but it is also unavoidable. Fortunately, conflict can actually strengthen instead of tear relationships apart if we employ point #7 above by specifically looking at our own part in any conflict (Romans 12:18). Do this using these 7 Questions to Ask During a Conflict.
Am I jumping to conclusions?
Am I being insensitive or too sensitive?
Am I being selfish?
Am I doing God’s job?
Am I trying to control others?
Am I communicating clearly?
Could I be the one who is wrong?
Relationships are a top priority for God (Matthew 22:37-39), and fulfilling His command to love others requires good communication skills. What can you do this week to improve your ability to communicate with others?
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each piece is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor or thine own
Or of thine friend’s were. Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
John Donne wrote the poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in 1624, and it inspired a famous book (Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”) which then inspired a song by a well-known rock band (not my kind of music… my brother’s).
The poem also well illustrates Luke’s words in Acts 2:42-47 where he stresses the importance of connection. Once becoming a believer, an individual joined with other believers and “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing the in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.”
Being united by faith in Christ, the early church focused on connections to strengthen and encourage each other. Connection was crucial to the survival of the church in its infancy.
Connecting with a body of believers still remains crucial in our challenging culture today. Yet the onus lies with the individual to connect and be connectible. But how does one cultivate healthy connectivity?
Connect to God. Without this connection, all other connections are futile. Begin with the basics of consistent Bible study, fellowship and prayer as the individuals in the early church did. Add to that foundation as led by the Holy Spirit.
Be connectable. Make time in your schedule for others. Let the Holy Spirit work in you and give you an attitude that draws instead of pushes others away. Realize you can’t change others, and focus on the one person you can change.
Develop broad shoulders. No one is perfect. People will say and do stupid things. Finding ways to support and encourage through imperfection creates connection. (See post Do You Have Broad Shoulders? for more on this point.)
Be willing to share. While sharing possessions certainly fits here (an example set by those Timothy spoke about in Acts), the point of sharing burdens must also be made (Galatians 6:2). Some burdens are obvious. Others not. Allowing someone to bear your burden may mean being brave enough to share it. Of course, this is a lot easier when healthy connections already exist.
Submit to the process. Connecting exists as an ongoing process. Making good choices to cultivate the process is crucial as each individual does his/her part by connecting to God, being connectable, developing broad shoulders and being willing to share.
Donne’s poem not only so well emphasizes the idea that no person exists to live life as a lonely island, it furthers the point by saying that “each man’s death diminishes me.” In other words, each person brings something unique to the body and has a “plan and a purpose” (Jeremiah 29:11). The body functions most effectively and with greater efficiency with all its parts connected and healthy.