17 Apr The Ultimate Communication Plan
Take a minute and think about a relationship you have. It may be with a significant other, family member, friend, coworker, or neighbor. Now, think about an important conversation you had with that individual. How did it go? What went well? What could you have done better?
Every day we have an infinite number of interactions with others, but are we effective communicators? Despite the fact that there are numerous seminars and books dedicated to the topic of communication, it continues to be an area of needed improvement for most of us. We struggle with the critical conversations which results in unnecessary misunderstandings, escalated conflicts and hurt feelings.
James 1:19 offers 3 excellent tips for communicating and interacting with others that we can all use. It applies to every relationship and to every conversation. Let’s review:
1. Quick to listen – As the saying goes, “we have two ears and one mouth”; however, with the way we act you would think it was just the opposite. Listening is critical to any conversation. We have to pause, be quiet and truly listen to what the other person is saying. Listen to their concerns. Listen to the emotions they are revealing through their words. Avoid thinking about what you are going to say next or interrupting to make your point. Just listen.
2. Slow to speak – Think before you speak. What is it that you are trying to get across and why? What is it that you want the person to take away from the conversation? If you are in a contentious conversation, count to ten, if needed, and then respond. Avoid getting caught up in your emotions and saying things that you may later regret. There is a saying that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is NOT true! Words can and do hurt and the impact can be felt for a lifetime. You wouldn’t hurl stones at someone in anger (at least I hope not), so don’t hurl mean, nasty words. They can and will leave scars.
3. Slow to anger – If you have mastered the first two, then hopefully this one won’t be as hard. Anger is like water in a tea kettle. Once the water is subjected to some heat it starts to slowly simmer, then it gets to a rolling boil. Finally, when it can’t take anymore, it starts to blow off some steam and that low whistle turns into an all out scream. When we find ourselves in a heated conversation, we need to recognize what stage we are at in the tea kettle. If we find ourselves starting to simmer or boil, we need to take steps to turn the heat down. Don’t let yourself get to the point that you uncontrollably let off steam.
Note that 2 of these points start with the word “slow” and only 1 with the word “quick.” Society today rewards the fast and furious; however, what this reminds us is that relationships and quality interactions cannot be rushed. The only thing we should be quick to do is to turn our focus outward on others; to take the time to listen. Otherwise, slow down.