Communication is a two-way process. That doesn't mean that both parties have to speak. It simply means that there must be a message given and a message received.
EFFECTIVE communication occurs when the message received is the same as the message given.
How often does that fail to occur in your daily experience?
Why must we so often repeat what we've just said?
Why is it necessary to rephrase simple statements?
Why is there so much bickering and squabbling and anger in our society?
Research has been done, and books have been written on this modern problem. Apparently, there are a multitude of contributing factors in our failure to communicate effectively.
There are environmental distractions. There are cultural divides. There are physical handicaps. We are too hurried. We are too tired. We are too stressed. We are not interested.
Each of these is a contributing factor to our overall inability (or unwillingness) to LISTEN.
If someone is speaking to you in a one-on-one, physical, visible, reach-out-and-touch-each-other situation, and you are doing anything other than looking at them, then you are not listening.
True and full listening requires that you be 100% present. Doing ANYTHING else detracts from that.
I know there are still plenty of people who claim that they can and must multi-task.
You are lying to yourself, however, if you think that you can do something else and pay 100% attention at the same time.
It is simply not possible.
It is in that lack of full attention that we miss the small things that make all the difference to truly hearing what the speaker is saying.
We then make an assumption based on what we think we heard, and we respond accordingly, only to have an argument ensue because that is not what was intended.
Of course, the same holds true for the one speaking. They must also pay 100% attention to what they are saying. That means controlling the flow of one's thoughts to keep up with the flow of speech. It is incredibly difficult to give undivided attention to a rambler who hardly ever finishes a sentence or a thought before interjecting a new thought.
Both of these aspects are addressed in the Bible: Pro. 29:11 for the latter, and James 1:19 for the former.
Pro. 29:11--A fool says everything that is on his mind.
The inability to control one's speaking so as to stay on topic places them in jeopardy of falling into the category of becoming a fool.
In the movie "The Godfather," Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) cuffs his oldest son, Sonny (James Caan) upside the head and says, "Never tell them what you are thinking." The character Sonny is the epitome of impulsiveness and speaking without thinking, and his father is trying to instill a necessary discipline into his son.
The lesson for us is to learn how to control our speech, to not feel as if we must say everything we are thinking.
James 1:19--Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
There are only two things here that we are to DO. The third is the result, or by-product, if you will, of successful accomplishment of the two. Doing the first is what makes the second possible. The three follow an order of priority.
1.) Quick to hear. The two words used in the passage for "quick" and "slow" have opposite meanings in the Greek, and so would we assume in our English language. There is, however, a subtle nuance that makes this fascinating to contemplate. It is not just the difference between fast and slow in regard to speed.
The idea of "quick" here is more akin to being "quick on your feet" when thinking and talking. We love to prove ourselves "quick" by asking questions, or answering them before someone gets their full thought expressed. In our culture, that shows how 'smart' we are. Of course, we are also told that it makes us look like a fool--He who answers something before he hears it, it is foolishness and shame to him (Pro. 18:13).
2.) Slow to speak. Again, while the idea of speed is certainly conveyed in the word "slow," there is more to it. In this case, MUCH more. It is the exact opposite of the meaning for "quick" that we saw.
This is a slowness that makes you look dull, or dim-witted. Is that a place you naturally move toward? Of course, not.
Could this possibly play toward humility?
Do you carefully choose your words, thinking about their meaning within the context of the moment?
If we could put these two principles into practice, then we would find ourselves much less ready for a fight. We would find that anger and frustration are far removed from our daily intercourse with others--both from within and from without.
Listening is a lost art, and there seems to be few who are anxious for its return to prominence.
You can change that in your world, if you so desire, by using this simple three-step formula.
- Shut up. Resist the urge to speak until the other speaker is quite obviously finished. Do this even if it means carrying an extra roll of duct tape around with you.
- When it is obviously your turn to talk, shut up. Wait until you have given yourself time to think, and your brain time to catch up with your mouth.
- If the other person gets angry or intense, shut up. Do not give it any energy. It will go away if it has nothing to fight against.
There is much more to the art of effective communication, but we will have to wait until another time to discuss it.
Comments, questions, and/or criticisms are welcomed here. Please add to the discussion with your thoughts. Thank you.