Great Communicators develop and continuously sharpen skills that enable them to both convey and receive information so that it is understood and acted upon when appropriate. Becoming a great communicator is hard work and people striving to be effective in this area put in a lot of effort as writers and speakers and especially as listeners.
Great communication is extremely important for fully devoted followers of Christ because we have such an incredibly important message. As the Body of Christ and as individuals we need to make an extra effort to communicate with excellence.
Here are some ideas that might promote better communication in our churches:
1. BECOME A SKILLFUL LISTENER. Sometimes we get confused and forget that without listeners, no communication takes place. Turn off the radio and TV. Look at the person talking. Take notes when appropriate. When possible, repeat back to the other person what you think you heard and allow them to correct you if needed. Feedback is the best test for effective listening.
2. DISMISS PRE-CONCEIVED CONCLUSIONS. We do this a lot by entering into a conversation or even sitting down to listen to a message and assuming we know what’s going on. Maybe the conversation with my friend starts off with a statement about how much gas costs and I assume he will complain about his small paycheck instead of listening and learning about the new website to help people find the lowest price. Instead of listening to the money-saving information, I’m thinking about my “speech” on how to be satisfied with what he has.
3. STOP THINKING THE WORST. This is a very significant challenge for a lot of Christians. We have this propensity to assume the worst. If someone in authority leaves a message on our voice mail, we assume that we’re in trouble. Or if a person we’ve had a disagreement with speaks our name in a conversation on the other side of the fellowship hall, we assume they are bad-mouthing us. Why not try thinking the best? When we see a friend from church eating by herself in a restaurant, why do we assume her marriage is in trouble? Instead, maybe we should consider the possibility that her husband loves her so much he’s taking care of the kids tonight so she can have the evening to herself!
4. STAMP OUT SELFISHNESS. “Look out for number one” seems to be the slogan of our culture. We talk about “my rights” and get red-in-the-face angry when someone even suggests that we might be wrong. The opening line of Rick Warren’s best-selling book, Purpose Driven Life, ought to be emblazoned on our T-shirts and worn daily; “It’s not about you!” The example Jesus left us with is one of self-sacrifice – not exactly a popular concept, but we still need to practice this spiritual discipline. If I can set aside my selfishness for just one conversation I might discover how to reach out to someone who is really hurting.
5. INJECT SOME HUMOR. Not the patronizing or destructive statements we normally laugh at because they are cruel but true humor that begins with being able to laugh at myself. Most of the humor on TV is done at the expense of someone else but we need to begin to look at the common situations in life and see where we can laugh with each other and not at each other.
6. DON’T CREATE TRIANGLES. Conflicts do occur – it’s one of the realities of life. How we handle conflict speaks volumes about our character and Christ-like-ness. To trianglize means that when person A has something against person B, instead of going directly to person B to get it straightened out, person A goes to person C to complain and malign person B. Person C then feels they must tell person B what A has said and then person B goes to person D and person C goes to person E and the triangles continue to form. This is very destructive in the Household of Faith. We MUST learn to practice Matthew 18 and go directly to the person we have a conflict with and get it worked out. When this is practiced Biblically it sometimes means that people need to come under the discipline of the church for refusal to forgive and move on.
Great Communication is hard work. But when we make the effort to really listen, drop our pre-conceived conclusions and think the best instead of the worst; when we take ourselves out of the center and use genuine humor to disarm our defensive emotions; then we are able to practice the principles of forgiveness and enjoy New Testament fellowship.