Listen to these two versions of the same brief conversation. The same words are uttered, but with two very different meanings and receptions. In the evening, my wife comes into my home office and politely reminds me, “Trash pickup is tomorrow morning, honey.” We both know by our relational routines and history together that this is a gentle reminder for me to take the trash out to the curb for pickup the following morning. My response is simply to say, “I will in a minute.” Now, here is the other version: My wife says the same thing, in the same manner, but I am annoyed before she even comes to me. Then, I get further irritated by the break in concentration, so I respond by spinning around, rolling my eyes, and with a raised tone of voice saying, “I will in a minute!” The same words were used, but the meaning of my response differed vastly from the first response. Communications involves more than just words, doesn’t it?
What is communications?
It is not just talking or speaking well. There is more to communication than that. There is a back-and-forth nature to it; it is not a solo act – it involves participants. Someone could speak eloquently with clear language but still not communicate well, in part, because it involves himself and another individual or group. Communication is about conveying meaning to one another (or a group) using words and non-verbal signals that require interpretation. Note: When people interpret, they never completely get the meaning 100% correct, which leads to some distortion or misinterpretation – that is why there is never complete understanding when people communicate.
To help convey the reciprocal nature that is communications, imagine a conversation with a peer in a hallway. Between the two of you, there is a cartoonishly large rubber band, with its ends attached to your abdomens –connecting you and your colleague. With your words, non-verbal signals, and reactions to interpreting, you manipulate the rubber band that is connected to your belly – pulling it, twisting it, making it have tension or giving it slack. Since you both are connected and exerting the same types of reactions, you are both affected and affect each other. Why? Each of you influences the quality of the communication through interpretation and then feedback via words and non-verbal communications. For example, can you recall those times when you left a verbal exchange with someone and said to yourself, “well that was awkward,” or “why did I feel so uncomfortable talking to him?” The fact is that it was highly probable that you weren’t the only one that felt awkward. In fact, you both felt awkward communicating with each other. Remember, with the rubber band, you both influence each other’s interactions.
All behavior communicates.
All behavior is communications, and it is always broadcasting a message. Not just in our speech. We communicate through WORDs and DEEDs. What are you saying to the world? Coworkers? Friends and family? What does that look like? What should that look like?
Communication is a window into the heart and mind.
We reveal ourselves, our desires and motives, in our communications. What we are loving becomes visible. Are we loving ourselves or the Lord? As Christians, in any moment, we can choose to love the Lord, ourselves, or something else. When we are loving the Lord, we demonstrate the First Great Commandment. When that reality works out from within our hearts and minds, it comes out of our mouths, hands, and feet in words and actions to those around us. That is demonstrating the Second Great Commandment. Here is the 1st and 2nd Great Commandment as stated in Matthew 22:37-39,
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Essentially, the 2nd Great Commandment is communication; loving well communicates. What would turning love into a verb and/or an adverb look like in your particular interactions?
Two things to consider: Content and Process.
Content is what is being said. Process is how that content is communicated. Out of these two, most people focus on content and are not aware of the importance of the process component. Process is how we interact and respond to each other. Process comprises our attitudes, behaviors, gestures, tone of voice, and the presence or absence of emotion.
Process is all about our attitudes and actions; “Good process” is about applying that in wise and loving ways in the interactions with those around us (to love in intelligent and in creative ways). What does that look like? Well, it involves:
- Listening well.
- Pursuing and fostering understanding.
- Restating in summary what you think the other is communicating (Sound board it off the other person to make sure they agree).
- Showing empathy during the interaction (to show you are “present,” in the conversation).
A nice, tidy summary of all of this so far could simply be: Be INTENTIONAL with our communications; Aim well in love with our words and deeds.
We are all responsible for our parts.
In the end, we are all responsible for our parts of a conversation. When it says in 2 Corinthians 5:10,
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
our spouses or our co-workers will not be there standing beside us. We cannot blame shift. For example, I cannot say, “my wife made me do it,” or, “Lord, I acted that way (fill-in blank) because she did (or she said) this____ to me!” Then, I turn my head to look at my wife to find she is not standing beside me. We are all to give an account individually.
May our communications be incarnational – Christ working through us to be the light and salt, to be ambassadors of reconciliation, pointing people back to God through His Son, healing damaged relationships, loving husbands/wives and genuine friends. May we be those things to our loved ones, co-workers, neighbors, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and to those in the world that are far from God.
If you need more personalized help with communications or marriage counseling, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for counseling from a biblical perspective at https://www.providencebiblicalcounseling.org.
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