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Home Read the Pastor's Blog Developing Effective Communication
Developing Effective Communication

Developing Effective Communication


            When I’m talking, I hate it when ___________ happens. Can you fill in the blank? The worst thing that was ever said to me was ______________. The worst thing I ever said to anyone was____________.   There was a saying I used to hear, “Stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!” That is not true. Words can create a lot of pain in your life. Words can ruin or refresh you. When you think about it, words only hurt because of the value we put on them and expectations we have of people. When I expect people to say certain things to me, I value their words. When those words are not spoken, I am disappointed, resulting in feeling the pain of the disappointment. Those same words in the mouth of someone else mean nothing to me. They have no effect or impact because I don’t expect or desire to hear those words from that person. So your words impact others to the degree that others care to hear what you have to say. When it comes to people close to you, your words have so much value because people close to you have expectations of what they want to hear from you. Therefore, you must work on developing effective communication. But, before we talk about developing effective communication, let’s consider four key factors in communication.

            First, you must consider that words reflect what’s in your heart (Luke 6:44-45). Words are the mechanism by which the ideas of your heart are communicated. Moreover, communication problems are really heart problems. The condition of your heart comes out in the communication of your words. So, as you evaluate your communication problems, you need to evaluate the condition of your heart.

          Second, you must consider that words define, explain, and interpret your perspective of life (Luke 6:44-45). The names you give things determine how you treat those things. For example, adultery or affair, fornication or sleeping together, sodomy or alternative lifestyle, greed or excessive spending, grumbling or saying what I feel, slander or sharing, angry or feeling upset, frustrated, unkind or cranky?   The name you give these things determine if you will treat them as sin or if you will treat them as something neutral. As a result you will take responsibility for these things, or you will act as if you are not responsible. For example you will find yourself saying things such as: “ It made me angry or I chose to react with anger;” “His behavior made me bitter, or I chose to be bitter as a reaction to his behavior;” “I have a drinking disease, or I have a sinful drinking pattern;” “You get on my nerves, or I choose to allow your habits to control my thoughts, words, and actions;” or “That’s just the way I am, or I choose not to change.” The use of these words exposes whether you take responsibility for your sins or excuse your sins.

           Third, words reflect the system of life by which you operate (1John 4:5-6). Those who are governed by the standards of the world communicate by the world’s standards. Those who are governed by the standards of God communicate by His standards. Your words reveal just who you live for.

         Fourth, your words direct and shape your relationship with others (Proverbs 12:18). If you speak rashly, you truly bring pain to people’s lives. But if you speak wisely you bring healing. As you evaluate the nature of your relationships, pay attention to the way you use your words. Through knowing and understanding these basic principles, you can develop effective communication in marriage. Yet, there are other biblical principles we need to consider in order to develop effective communication in marriage. Let’s examine some of them.

         Proverbs 18:2 states “A fool does not delight in understanding but only in revealing his own mind.” When you find yourself not wanting to listen but only wanting to be heard, you are blocking yourself from gaining good understanding. When you lack good understanding, you will tend to interpret other’s speech by your own perception of them, allowing your opinions of them to determine how you listen. Moreover, when you lack good understanding, you will tend to interpret the speech of others according to your preferences, allowing what you want them to do or think in relation to the matter to determine how you listen to them . If you don’t gain good understanding, you will tend to interpret the speech of others according to your pain, allowing your disappointments, hurts, and frustrations to determine how you listen to them. Finally, when you lack good understanding, you will interpret the speech of others according to your passions, allowing what you want from them to determine how you listen. A woman came to me and said, “My husband does not love me, (perception) because if he did, he would not continue to make the decisions he makes (preference) realizing that he really disappoints me (pain) when he continues to deny me what is important to me!(passion)” Do you see it? When you don’t seek to gain good understanding, you are left to your own understanding resulting in self-centered interpretations and bad understanding.

          Proverbs 18:15 states “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Effective communication begins with good listening. Therefore, if you are not willing to listen, you will not have effective communication. Listening leads to good understanding, which is the key to effective communication. Therefore, you need to make sure you have correctly heard the words of others.   Remove all distractions inside and outside so you can hear correctly. Next, seek to understand what the person means by his or her words. Don’t assume that what others mean by their words is the same as what you mean by your words. Ask the question, “What did you mean by what you just said?” This way you don’t assume. Moreover, seek to understand what other people are feeling through their words. As you evaluate emotions, you may be able to see why the other person has used a certain choice of words. Lastly, seek to understand what others are trying to accomplish through their words. Are they trying to explain, make a point, or challenge you? None of these things can be gained if you don’t seek to listen with the intent to gain a good understanding. I had a situation with my wife where I totally missed everything I’m sharing with you. I did not correctly hear what she said, and jumped to conclusions. I misinterpreted what she meant by her words because I was not focused on what she was feeling nor did I care what she was trying to accomplish with her words. I had only myself in mind, so I missed out on gaining a good understanding, resulting in a bad argument!

         Proverbs 15:28 states “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” Those who are walking rightly think before they speak. Those who are walking wrongly speak before they think. When you are considering others, think before you speak. Effective communication comes when you are seeking to live righteously. When you are pondering how to answer, you must consider the person you are speaking to. You should ask yourself, “What do I know about this person that should shape what I am about so say?” Also, you must consider the problem. You should ask yourself, “What is the real need or problem, and how should I address it?” Moreover, you must consider the process by which you are going to communicate. You should ask yourself, “Is the way I’m about to speak beneficial to this person?” Most important, when pondering how to answer, you must consider the precepts of God’s Word. You should ask yourself, “What does God’s Word have to say about this?” The story is told of a student who wanted to surpass his teacher in wit. He had an idea that he thought would do it. He was going to take a live bird and put it in his hand and hide the bird behind his back. He would ask his teacher to guess if the bird in his hand was dead or alive. If the teacher said alive, he would crush the bird and show the teacher he was wrong thereby outwitting his teacher. If the teacher said dead, he would let the bird live and show the teacher he was wrong thereby outwitting his teacher. So as the teacher approached he said, “Teacher, is the bird in my hand dead or alive?” The teacher considered the person, considered the problem, considered the process, and considered the precepts of God and responded by saying “You decide!” Wow! Follow this teacher’s example and ponder how to answer before you speak.      

         Ephesians 4:29 states “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” You should not say anything to be critical because it tears down and bypasses the issues and tunes in on condemning character. For instance, imagine spending time with a friend and you forget to bring something that he/she requested. As a result your friend begins to call you stupid or retarded and talks about how bad you are. The issue is that you forgot to do what he or she wanted, not your intelligence. This is the idea about speaking unwholesome words. The words tear down instead of build up. You should speak words that build up another person and tunes in on the real issues. Take for instance the above example. Instead of the person calling you stupid or retarded for forgetting to bring what was requested, there could be a dialogue on the problem—the problem being the fact of his or her disappointment around not receiving the object desired. The issue was never about your intelligence but about disappointment. From this we see the example of focusing on the issue without tearing down the person. Therefore we should speak words that focus on dealing with the person’s responsibility as well as words that focus on ministering grace. I remember sharing with a person these words: “It’s amazing how your husband’s intelligence rises and falls according to the completion or incompletion of certain task you assign him.” The problem was not with his intelligence; the problem was with his disappointing her. However, instead of attacking the problem, she decided to attack him. When you don’t seek to speak words that edify, you will do what this lady did. You will attack the person not the problem. In your communication with others, learn to talk to them and not about them. You should talk to the person you have a problem with first and privately with the intent to resolve the issue God’s way. You should not speak words that tear down the character of a person with whom you have a problem when talking to someone else. You should only get other people involved in the matter if you can’t first and privately resolve the issue. The third person’s involvement is to help bring resolution and not to take sides.

         Ephesians 4:25 states, “Therefore laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor for we are members of one another.” You should be honest in your communication with others. That means speaking up or speaking out with the truth while having the other person’s welfare in mind. You speak up or out after you have dealt with your own motives and sin issues. By doing so you won’t have to be silent for fear of being harsh in your tone or hurting their feelings. When you realize that you are not going to build up others with your speech, you should be silent. You are not being helpful to others if you keep quiet because you don’t want to make them feel bad. That means you are keeping the truth from them for the wrong reasons. When you pretend everything is okay and it is not, you are not telling the truth. You can’t build godly realtionships on lies.   Therefore, honesty is truly the best policy.

        Proverbs 27: 6 states “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” In your communication with others, you should keep issues current instead of keeping them quiet. If you are going to be open and loving, you need to say things to others that need to be said and not hold it in for fear or any other ungodly reason. You should keep issues current because when you don’t deal with issues, negative thoughts and emotions build up in your heart. As a result unresolved issues can lead to grudges and bitter attitudes. Therefore, deal with issues immediately and lovingly. When you don’t keep issues current it leads to a distortion of the facts. You can’t see other problems clearly because you are holding on to unresolved issues of the past causing you to loose an objective standard of measure in other issues. Have you considered the grudges you have against others right now?   How have they impacted the way you relate right now?   Keep issues current and not quiet.

      As you evaluate these principles, identify areas where you are doing well and confess, repent, and replace sinful communication patterns with godly ones. Consider the process below: 




Ask people close to you the following questions:


1. Are you driven to me or driven away from me by the way I use my words?


2. Are you delighted or down after talking to me?


3. When I speak am I mainly critical or caring?


4. Does it appear to be a chore or a reward to talk to me?


5. Are you on the defense or relaxed when I speak?


6. Am I constantly complaining or constantly complementing?


7. Are my words seasoned with grace or poisoned with bitterness?


8. Am I constantly rehearsing the problem or discussing the solution?


9. Has your reputation been damaged because of my words?


10. When I speak about a situation is it hearsay or is it factual?


11. Do I speak the truth without criticizing you or do I criticize you without speaking the Truth?


12. Do you believe you have been heard or that I really listen to you?


13. Do you not talk to me at times because you believe I will not listen you?


14. Do you feel attacked when I talk to you?


15. Do I turn personal preferences into moral issues when I talk to you?


16. Do I help you or hurt you when I talk? Which seems to be the most consistent?


17. Are you afraid to be open and honest with me?