Sunday Reflections – Understanding & Improving Our Communication

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.

  1. Am I jumping to conclusions?
  2. Am I being insensitive or too sensitive?
  3. Am I being selfish?
  4. Am I doing God’s job?
  5. Am I trying to control others?
  6. Am I communicating clearly?
  7. 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?

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How to… Be Encouraging Just By Being You

Encouragement does not come naturally for me. Not something I’m proud to admit. Whether because of nature or nurture, personality or temperament, being encouraging to myself or to others comes with great effort, if it comes at all. Yet, the Bible says to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).

Encouraging others is a desire of God’s heart. After this realization, my fix-it personality set to work figuring out how to be more encouraging. First, I set a goal of encouraging a certain number of people each week. That didn’t work. Honestly, I just kept forgetting to be encouraging. Then, I enlisted my boys’ help and asked them to remind me to be encouraging. But I think they were too used to me being me, and they forgot to remind me. So what did I do next? Well, I gave up for a while, not out of frustration but more out of knowing the timing wasn’t right. The Holy Spirit needed to do some work within me.

I knew I needed a heart change. I needed to see something differently or something new that I just wasn’t seeing. Since motivation wasn’t my issue, I started to see that the focus of my motivation was wrong. Instead of encouraging to make me look good, or at least not look like I didn’t care about others, I needed to encourage because I wanted to and because I believed in who and what I was encouraging. I needed to stop encouraging just to be encouraging and because it pleased God.

The following 4 realizations have helped me to at least start to be a more encouraging person.

  1. The Golden Rule is a great starting point. Not just a cliché saying, the Golden Rule actually comes from scripture (Matthew 7:12). To apply this rule to encouragement, consider the ways you are most encouraged and then encourage others in those same ways. For example, I enjoy being complimented on what I say, so I try to encourage others when they say something that encourages me.
  2. I gotta be me! A new Dr. Pepper commercial has a great song that says, “I gotta be me.” Being anyone else means bucking up against the “one of a kind” person God made me to be. What does this have to do with encouragement? When I am who God created me to be, I am better able to be encouraging. If I try to be my sanguine friends, I feel constantly sick to my stomach and worn out. But, if I encourage in my introverted way, I am being who God made me to be, which helps me be a better friend, wife, mother and servant.
  3. Apply Paul’s formula for life. In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul gives a simple formula for living life: Live quietly, mind your own business and work with your hands. How does this encouraging others? Verse 12 says that living this type of life shows “proper behavior” that earns the respect of others. For me, having respect for someone is encouraging because they hold qualities that motivate me to be a better person. And, in keeping with the above two points, if respect for how someone lives their life encourages me, then perhaps how I live my life can encourage others.
  4. Balance listening and talking. As an introvert, I don’t say much when I’m in a group of people I don’t know well or if I am uncomfortable for some reason. But when I’m around people I know, I definitely talk more, often too much. Being too quiet makes people uncomfortable, and talking too much makes them feel unimportant. At least, that’s what it does to me. So, as I work to become more encouraging, I need to balance how much I talk with how much I don’t.

Encouraging others means accepting who God made them to be and appreciating the gifts, abilities and viewpoints He gave them. When we support others in a way that pushes them to be the best they can be, encouragement results.

DISCUSSION: What do 1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:11 add to this topic of encouragement?

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