Three consecutive phone calls, presumably all about the same subject, from three people with a different version of the same event. Each one claims to know the “truth.” How can that be? There are three varying recollections of “who said what” with the individuals involved calling the others “liars.”
If this were an episode of “The Office” or a wild experiment on “Mythbusters,” we would laugh and probably say, “That’s the way it is.” However, the scenario is not a TV show but a real-life situation in a church. How sad.
If we could make a 10% improvement in our communication between brothers and sisters in Christ, there would be a 50% reduction in conflict within the Church. Yes, I’m talking about YOUR CHURCH!
Here are some practical suggestions:
Tell the WHOLE truth. Leave out a few facts and any account becomes fiction. Somehow we’ve fallen into the media trap of “spinning” a story for our personal benefit. Give all the facts without leaving anything out. Taking part of the truth and then embellishing the story is just as wrong. Telling part of truth still makes a whole lie! “Change my heart, O God, make it ever true.”
Learn to listen. Listening is a lost art. Most of the time, if we are honest, when someone is talking to us, we are thinking about what we’re going to say next. Look at people when they talk to you. When I’m on the phone, I take notes to help me stay focused. (OK, sometimes when I’m driving there’s too much traffic to write . . . ) Pray that God will give ears to hear and a heart of understanding!
Think before speaking. Life moves at an unbelievably fast pace and trying to keep up leaves us with precious little time to think before we open our mouths. It’s “OK” to have some long pauses in a conversation because it takes time to really listen in order to formulate a response. Choose words carefully; once spoken they cannot be put back in the mouth! Pray that God will control our tongues.
Ask for instant replays. And volunteer them, too. One of the best communication tools is ignored most of the time. Simply asking someone to repeat back to you what they heard you say is powerful. If you’re in a conversation with someone, and items of importance and sensitivity are being shared, ask them if you can repeat the statement or question in order to make sure you have it right. This is not an exercise to test memory; rather it deepens understanding. My wife and I discovered this tool early in our marriage and, after almost 33 years, we still use this technique almost daily! God, help us to grasp what people are really saying, even they have a hard time expressing themselves.
Don’t wear your feelings on your sleeve. To quote Rick Warren, “It’s not about you!” What you and I feel is rarely important. Truth, facts, Biblical principles – that’s what is crucial. In emotionally charged conversations, emotions can’t be trusted. Ask for 3 minutes to “cool down.” Wait to respond to that phone message. Click out of the email be firing off a response. Moses didn’t feel like going back to Egypt; David didn’t feel like facing Goliath; Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross.
Don’t trianglize. If person A has a problem with person B, the situation becomes even worse when A decides to talk to person C instead of practicing Matthew 18 principles. And its totally unacceptable to share all the details in a “prayer request.” Scripture labels that gossip. Unfortunately, many prayer meetings devolve into sin because we would rather talk about the person we should really be talking to. Forgive us, Lord.
Avoid emotional letters and emails. When words come out of our mouths they cannot be put back but when we write a letter or email that becomes positive proof. What is written is often the basis for charges of libel and slander. IF something needs to be written, ask someone who can be trusted, who is unrelated to the situation, to look over the text before it’s sent. Lord, I need self-control.
These are just a few suggestions which could change the way we communicate with each other. What a difference we could make in our churches and communities by improving our communication.