You cannot not communicate. You are always communicating something. I heard this in a college class almost 20 years ago, and it has stuck with me. Unfortunately, most of us make too many assumptions and spend way too much time following those assumptions about others’ communication. We often fail to pay enough attention, or any at all, to our own communication abilities.
You can deliberately choose to improve your communication skills. To start, consider these essential elements of communication.
- We judge ourselves by our intentions. We can’t really know for sure the intentions of others. When we’re honest with ourselves and with a lot of help from the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12), though, 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 and 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 transform the communication 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 ones that build relationships (Ephesians 4:22-24). Let your mind be renewed continually (Romans 12:1-2), and 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.
Communication in Conflict
Conflict is not only necessary, but it’s also unavoidable. Fortunately, conflict can actually strengthen instead of tear relationships apart if we employ point seven above by specifically looking at our own part in any conflict (Romans 12:18). Do this using the following questions.
- 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. It’s up to us individually to find ways to improve our ability to communicate with others.