Love – The Communication Process
Communication is one of the most important aspects of our lives. It's central to our interaction with others at home, school, work, church, government. And yet it is one of the most complex things we do.
What's the point of communication?
- Is it to make our own points, to push our own agenda, to be heard and understood?
- Is it to hear what others are saying, understand an idea, and understand others?
- Is it to improve relationships, find solutions, discover new ideas, and bless?
The problem with most communication is that it is self-serving. We think about what we're going to say while others are speaking and often say something in reply that has nothing to do with the message we've just heard -- mainly because we're not listening to the other person but to our own message.
We might even argue that there's more miscommunication in our lives than effective communication. So, how can we communicate in ways that increase our understanding of ideas, situations, or people, thereby increasing our ability to bless everyone involved in the situation or relationship? In other words, how do we communicate effectively?
One of the major steps we can take to improve communication is to follow the Golden Rule and seek to understand others in the way we would like to be understood. But this takes courage, humility, and a willingness to pray to be a better communicator. The Psalmist knew the need of putting God in control of his mouth and what came out of it when he said, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer" (Ps 19:14).
The Bible gives us great advice on how to improve our communication:
- "I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints" (Ps 85:8 KJV).
- "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1:19 KJV).
- "Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out" (The Message, Col 4:6).
- "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (Eph 4:29 KJV). This is paraphrased by Peterson: "Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift" (The Message, Eph 4:29).
- "And don't say anything you don't mean…. Just say 'yes' and 'no.' When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong." (The Message, Matt 5:33, 37).
Surely, if our communication is acceptable to God, it will be acceptable to and understood by others. If our desire is to be more effective communicators and minimize our communication breakdowns, we need to recognize the steps in communication.
The components of the communication process are:
Effective communication happens when the SENDER sends the MESSAGE (the idea/issue/point he's conveying) through a clear channel in a way that the RECEIVER hears the meaning of the message correctly, thus allowing for further effective communication, or feedback. Very often we assume this is a human activity, and we don't need any help from any other source, especially God. But one thing missing in most communication models is the God connection.
In order to communicate effectively, we have to communicate -- send and receive -- with LOVE! The apostle Paul explains why love is so important in the communication process:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. (I Cor 13:1)
Eugene Peterson phrases Paul's words this way:
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. (The Message, I Cor 13:1)
If we don't communicate with love, people simply will not hear us. Instead, they'll hear creaky gates, tinny cymbals, or a bunch of noise. As a result, they may miss the message or, even worse, get upset at us. If we really believe that our message is worth communicating, then we will take the time, energy, and consideration required to communicate in a way that makes others feel comfortable and willing to listen. We love.
And loving others is easier when we realize just how much God loves us. Because God is communicating love to us, we can communicate it to others. But many times, we confuse the communication process with God: we think of it as a one-way street where we talk, and God listens. What about this model: God talks, and we listen?! It's amazing how much we'll find out about God and ourselves when we do the listening. And we'll discover that what we're hearing from God will actually make us better communicators with others.
Good communication is never one-sided. It has shared responsibilities. We can consciously take note and pay attention to the messages others send as we send our return message back with understanding and supportive responses that show we are not only listening, but also care about the sender.
So here are some practical questions that become guidelines for effective communication that bless every situation:
- What message am I trying to send?
- Is the message I'm getting to send coming from God? (If it's not, don't send it.)
- How important is the message?
- Is the message or the person more important?
- Is the message truthful and accurate? (If it's not, if it's only hearsay, don't send it!)
- Will the message hurt or help the situation, relationship, person? Will the message help the person? Or, is it a way to relieve my own stress, anger, frustration? (If it hurts, don't send it.)
- How can I package the message in the best possible way, doing all I can to make sure the message is accurately understood and appropriately received?
- Is my delivery method such that the receiver will hear what I'm saying?
- Am I calm and respectful. Is my tone of voice thoughtful and loving? This does not mean that you can't be firm. Parents often need to be firm (not filled with anger, but filled with love) with their children.
- Or, is it filled with indignation, condescension, anger, bitterness, doubt, fear, disgust, judgment, or poor body language? If so, the receivers won't hear what we're sending. They'll only hear the tone of our voice.
- How can I let the receiver know I love him or her?
- How does God view the message, the receiver, the situation?
- How can I best receive the message?
- Have I heard the message accurately?
- Is the message coming from God?
- What clarifying questions can I ask so that I understand the message accurately?
- Do I have any preconceived notions about the sender or about the message that will keep me from hearing the message? (If so, get rid of them.)
- If the sender's tone of voice negatively impacts the message, am I willing and able to look beyond that to understand the message? (I need to.)
- Is this message something that will bless me, us, and the situation? (If it's not, then I may not have to take it to heart, or I may need to find a way to bring about a blessing.)
- How does God view the message, the sender, the situation?
Sometimes we may find ourselves needing to communicate but not knowing what to say or how to say it. Then we can take comfort in the words which God spoke to Moses before he led the people out of Egyptian captivity: "I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say" (Ex 4:12 KJV).
In every communicative act, whether or not we are playing the role of the sender or receiver, WE are always RECEIVERS, and GOD is always the SENDER. So long as we're open to the MESSAGES of LOVE that God is sending us, we will be able to talk with love in our hearts, listen with love in our hearts, and therefore communicate with love in our hearts. This is true communication.