To communicate by definition is the process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behaviour.
But good communication, rather than just noise (in a friendship, family, workplace or wherever there are people) takes time, practice and a willingness to put the effort and care into both understanding and being understood.
Ultimately I believe good communication is the desire to know someone – to know their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, opinions, and heart. Without that desire to know a person our communication will be limited and we will lack real clarity, understanding, and the ability to respond effectively. We will risk falling into the trap of presuming we know what someone is feeling and thinking when perhaps we don’t.
One of the most important ways to be a good communicator is to be a good listener. No one likes communicating with someone who only cares about putting their opinions forward, yet does not take the time to listen to others. Whereas a good listener will actively listen, paying close attention to what the other person is saying, asking clarifying questions and rephrasing what the person reply is to ensure they understand.
It’s when we actively listen that we better understand and can respond appropriately. As we listen relationships are built and strengthened and heart to heart connections are made.
One of the things I have learnt most about being a listener is that it helps if we make ourselves available to listen and to understand. Unfortunately “many people don’t listen with the intent to understand, but only with the intent to reply.” (S. Covey)
However being a good listener can be inconvenient, as it takes time, can mean a lot of late night conversations and may mean you miss a lunch or tea break. We may in the effort to listen better have to choose to set other things aside to focus on what and who is important rather than urgent. It means turning off technology, going out of our way to care, and being there even when we may be tired, had a hard day or have pressures and concerns of our own.
But the benefits of becoming a great listener and therefore increasing our communication skills is worth it. It helps us to build trust, prevents and/or aids in resolving problems, provides clarity and direction, creates better relationships, increases engagement and promotes team building.
I encourage you to take some time today to think about how you can practice building your communication skills and especially the skill of being a good listener. Both in your relationship with God and also all those He brings across your path, because one of the most sincere forms of respect and maturity is actually listening so as to understand and then being able to communicate well.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” (Jeremiah 29:12)
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)
Prayer: Lord help me to have ears to hear and a heart to understand both you and those around me more today. In Jesus name Amen