by Elizabeth Delaney
One of my college professors was a stickler for honest communication. She was fond of saying, “Be as good as your word.” If students told her they were going to do something at a certain time or show up at a certain place, she expected them to follow through. Her passion for integrity left a lasting impression on me. I found that when I applied her words to my life, they resulted in the building of trust and respect in relationships, led to strategic opportunities for the future, and even resulted in favor with God. After all, being as good as your word is a biblical concept. Jesus said in Matthew 5:37, “Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no,’ ‘no;’ anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
The Policy of Honesty
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had developed a complex set of rules that allowed them to play manipulative word games. As a result they weren’t particularly honest when they made promises or oaths to people. Jesus exposed their dishonesty in Matthew 23:16: “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated to perform it” (New King James Version). Jesus observed that the temple actually has more value than gold because it symbolizes God’s presence among his people.
If Jesus is our Lord and Savior, he dwells in us. He is enthroned in the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3). God is in our presence today when we assemble to worship, pray, and learn through teaching and preaching. We also encourage one another and build one another up when we assemble to worship. When we communicate effectively with one another we build relationships and promote unity.
One common difficulty many church leaders face is a lack of participation among church members. On the other end of the spectrum, some church members who have attempted to step out in faith to engage in ministry have encountered territorialism, traditionalism, control issues, and other complications. Sometimes these obstacles to ministry come from those already volunteering.
In some cases misunderstandings arise when leaders fail to communicate their vision or explain the reason certain procedures exist. Volunteers may interpret these misunderstandings as insincerity and lack of commitment. Such actions discourage volunteerism and inhibit growth.
Sometimes volunteers are guilty of arrogance, misplaced zeal, impatience, and a lack of spiritual fruit (see Galatians 5:16-25). Effective communication can help resolve many of these issues.
Clarifying the Task
Often communication problems can be alleviated by clearly stating goals, objectives, and plans.
When things are stated verbally, the person being spoken to can reiterate what’s being said for added clarification. It may seem like overkill, but it’s amazing how often what we intend to say isn’t what people actually hear.
Years ago I worked in a call center as a customer service representative. If I was unclear about a customer’s situation, I would say something like, “It sounds like your item arrived broken, is that correct?”
The customer would respond with “Yes, that’s correct.”
“I’m sorry about that,” I replied. “Would you like a replacement or a refund to your account?”
It’s a simple example, but it illustrates the point of summarizing what we think we’ve heard and verifying what the other person intended to communicate.
Choosing Our Words Carefully
Other important elements include the tone of our voice and our body language. When we speak with anger or accusation in our voice we’re likely to provoke the other person. If we fold our arms across our chest or invade another’s personal space, we increase the possibility of confrontation. Choosing a relaxed and private setting allows both parties to feel comfortable and can help facilitate a calm atmosphere and a more positive attitude.
Our choice of words also affects the outcome of our communication. Many years ago my husband worked for the Internal Revenue Service. Part of his job included contacting taxpayers who owed money to the government. In training he was taught to say, “An error has been made,” rather than “You made an error.”
Taking the personal reference out of the statement made it sound less accusatory and often helped to defuse a tense situation. The person he was talking to didn’t feel as though he were being attacked.
Interestingly, the Bible implies a similar mindset. In Philippians 4:8 we are encouraged to think on things that are, true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and good.
Most people don’t intentionally set out to be rude and disrespectful or to harm others. But when we run into people who are less than fair and decent, we need to remember that our all-powerful God is more than able to protect us, and often does so without our realizing it. Psalm
17:8, 9 tells us God will hide us from our enemies and Psalm 34:7 tells us not only does the angel of the Lord surround us, he also delivers us.
Not only does honest communication require humility, it requires a determination to consider whether God is pleased with how we’re conveying our thoughts.
As we improve our communication skills we must align our efforts with those of the Holy Spirit. While we might like to have more control over what others chose to do or say, we can only take responsibility for ourselves. We will become more sensitive to the leadership of God’s Spirit when we make the effort to let our yes be yes, and our no be no.
Elizabeth Delaney is a freelance writer in Green Township, Ohio.
Valuable Resources for Effective Communication
For help communicatinag with difficult people, read Don’t Let Jerks Get the Best of You (Thomas Nelson, 1995) by Paul Meier.
For help communicating with your spouse, read The Keys to Growing in Love (BBS Publishing, 1996) by Gary Smalley and John Trent and The Five Love Languages (Moody, 2010) by Gary Chapman.
For help communicating with your children, read The New Dare to Discipline (Tyndale House, 1996) by Dr. James Dobson.