Effective communication is an essential life skill. Communication is so powerful it can change the course of any relationship. Do you have a relationship that has gone off course? I would argue that communication is the vehicle that can get it back on track.
Effective communication breathes life into marriages. Communication improves and deepens relationships. Give me more of that!
The One who created you for relationships also created communication. God communicates with His people through His written Word. We communicate with God through prayer. Do you see the two sides of communication here? Listening and speaking are both required for an exchange of information. That’s what communication is – an exchange of information.
Let’s dive into what the Author of communication says and apply it to our lives.
Before we start outlining how to more effectively communicate, I want to point out the benefits of doing communication God’s way. He has outlined His best for us and there is blessing in obedience (John 13:17).
Communicating God’s Way Brings Blessing
- Gracious words promote instruction (Proverbs 16:21). Communicating with words that are kind, courteous and pleasant softens hearts allowing others to receive the information you are offering.
- Gracious words are healing (Proverbs 16:24). Whether your words are offering prayer or encouragement, they are powerful. Choose your words for building others up and watch how gracious words are sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).
- Righteous lips nourish many (Proverbs 10:21). Sharing truth lovingly has a domino effect. The person you with whom you’re sharing might share with others. How often do you share loving truth with one person while in the presence of others. No matter what truth, encouragement or hope you offer – you have the Holy Spirit blessing and multiplying that communication in ways we might not even be aware of.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of blessings that come with communicating God’s way. But it does demonstrate the two greatest commandments: Loving God (devotion demonstrated through obedience) and loving others (communicating according to God’s design). Blessing follows obedience (John 13:17).
Whenever we live God’s best for us, peace is a natural side effect. In the short run it’s tempting to communicate our frustrations with harsh words or refuse to listen, but in the long run these patterns are harmful to us and our relationships. Choosing to do communication God’s way can be challenging initially, but the long-term payoff is peace. Inner peace as well as peace in our relationships.
Preparation for Effective Communication
The key to great communication starts in the heart. The heart is the control room of the mind and body. This is where we store our treasure (Matthew 6:21). Hence the utmost importance of guarding our heart (Proverbs 4:23) because our words and actions flow from our heart. This also means what we treasure in our heart will drive our desires and that drives our choices.
Before entering into a conversation ask yourself what are your motives? What do you desire? If selfish ambition is the motive, effective communication will not be possible (James 3:16). When our motive is looking to the interests of others, we honor God and effective communication ensues.
Let’s get started with the speaking side of communication…
Roadblocks to Effectively Communicating
- Don’t be argumentative (Proverbs 25:24). It’s okay to disagree, but do it agreeably. It’s so easy to get caught up in the details of what someone is saying that we lose sight of the bigger picture.
- Don’t try to persuade by increasing your word count (Proverbs 10:19). This technique ends with a circling the same block over and over. If agreement comes it’s usually the result of exhaustion and defeat rather than true agreement.
- Don’t be quick to speak (Proverbs 15:28, James 1:19). It’s so tempting to barrel out in disagreement or defensiveness that we speak without thinking it through. Often this response is related to making assumptions about what is being said rather than asking clarifying questions.
- Don’t say “I told you so” (Proverbs 25:20). Okay, that’s not the exact verbiage of this verse but it does say don’t pour vinegar in the wound. We’ve all been on the receiving end of “I told you so”. It doesn’t feel good. Erase this phrase from your vocabulary
- Don’t focus on your own opinion (Proverbs 18:2). Communication is about sharing and exchanging ideas and opinions. Focusing on your own opinion is one-sided and narrow-minded.
- Don’t speak rashly (Proverbs 13:3). Speaking rashly literally means speaking without careful consideration of the consequences. Our words are powerful. James says our words are like a spark setting a forest ablaze. Our words have lasting consequences. Can you remember a time someone spoke to you rashly? We must choose our words wisely.
- Don’t speak harshly (Proverbs 12:18, 15:1). Harsh is defined as unpleasantly rough, cruel or severe. The words we speak should be chosen wisely. Harsh words are usually spoken out of anger but it does not yield the desired goal (James 1:20). This includes yelling, keep the volume in check. Also, avoid sarcasm-it’s minimizing what the other person is saying. Proverbs 12:18 says our words can be reckless and pierce like a sword or bring healing. Which do you want to be known for?
As I read over the roadblocks list, each item stood alone. What I mean by that is, engaging in any one of those behaviors will block effective communication. Then my attention shifted to the pathways of effective communication… The do’s. The do’s were more like ingredients to a recipe. All of the elements work together and complement one another for effective communication let’s see what we got…
Pathways to Effectively Communicating
- Tell the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Sharing truth with someone is challenging, yet necessary. The only way to effectively share the truth is in love. Without love hearts harden. Delivering truth with harshness doesn’t yield the desired goal. Love is like the packaging on the gift of truth – more readily received.
- Strive for peace (Hebrews 12:14). Striving for peace does not equal withholding the truth. Rather it means we don’t communicate as discussed earlier with harshness, rashness, anger, etc. Instead we speak the truth in love and then entrust it to God. We tell the truth and God does the “heart” part.
- Be gentle and patient (Ephesians 4:2). Whenever I read this verse I’m reminded we all have different tools in our tool chest for living. We respond differently to events. Our weakness and strengths vary. Rather than become impatient in the midst of these differences, we are called to be gentle and patient. It’s a high calling that I often stumble on. Keep in mind these are fruits of the Spirit dwelling in you. Therefore, while it’s a high calling, it’s not an impossible one.
- Focus on the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). Self focus will rob you of living your purpose. It’s not what you were made for. Not to mention it will steal your joy and peace. It’s a constant state of demanding from a place of emptiness. The flip side of this coin is others focused. A constant state of giving from the overflow of love God pours into your heart. (Acts 20:35)
- Remember your overall purpose (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Our mission is to bring glory to God. This includes the way we communicate with one another. Doing communication God’s way yields peace and joy.
Roadblocks to Effectively Listening
- Don’t answer before listening (Proverbs 18:13). This comes in two forms. Don’t interrupt when the other person is talking. And don’t talk over them. This tactic shuts down communication quickly.
- Don’t hear without listening (Matthew 13:13). Meaning, “I hear your voice, but not your words.” This tends to look more like formulating your response before they finish speaking, rather than truly seeking to understand what is being said.
- Don’t make assumptions about what is being said (James 4:12). Making assumptions is the same as judging another’s thoughts, motives or behavior. The Bible is very clear that we are in no position to judge others. That shift belongs to God alone. Do yourself a favor and don’t try to work that shift… the margin of error is large.
Pathways to Effectively Listening
- Ask good questions (Proverbs 20:5). Good questions are open-ended and clarifying. Open ended means the questions are worded in such a way that the answer can’t be one word. For example, “What was the best part of your day?” rather than, “Did you have a good day?” The goal is to seek to understand what someone is saying. Paraphrasing what you think you heard is an effective listening tool as well.
- Really listen (Matthew 13:13). Our lives are crazy busy. Cell phone notifications, social media and everyday responsibilities leave us easily distracted. Give communication all of your attention.
We’ve all heard the phrase “Actions speak louder than words”. I don’t know if that’s true since we have covered how powerful our words can be at this point, but I want to go over nonverbal communication. Our nonverbal cues have a big impact on the effectiveness of communication.
- Don’t turn away from the person talking.
- Don’t roll your eyes.
- Don’t shake your head in dismay.
- Don’t scroll your phone or other electronic device while someone is speaking to you.
- Don’t use closed body posture such as crossing your arms, looking away, hands fisted, etc.
- Do lean forward showing interest in what the other person is saying.
- Do make eye contact giving the message that you are focused.
- Do nod – letting the person know you are listening to what they are saying.
- Do be completely present in the moment focusing on the dialogue.
- Do have a relaxed body posture.
A few more tips…
Don’t Wait to Practice Biblical Communication
It’s not uncommon to allow our emotions to drive the way we engage in conversation. But remember! Our emotions are not reliable guides. God’s Word is Truth – let Truth guide how you respond in challenging conversations.
Don’t let someone else’s behavior guide your actions. It’s tempting to think, “Why should I speak kindly when they’re not speaking kindly?” “Why should I show interest when they’re not showing interest?” Never let someone’s behavior take you away from honoring God in your communication.
Let’s Wrap It Up
Effective communication is a powerful tool that can enrich our relationships and honor God. The Bible gives us a great deal of insight on how to communicate well. The key starts in the heart because it drives how we respond to others. As we live out God’s guide to great communication we will see His blessings in our relationships and in our life.
“Now that you know these things you will be blessed if you do them.” ~John 13:17.
What element of effective communication are you going to start practicing today? What element do you find most challenging to live out and why?