We are living in the “information age,” but in this flurry of communication, are we doing so effectively? In an age of progress, have we progressed in our communication? And here I am not referring to public speaking per se, but rather interpersonal communication skills.
There is nothing more frustrating than to feel misunderstood—to constantly need to re-explain yourself. That might signal it’s time to reevaluate the effectiveness of your communication skills. What can Jesus, the master communicator, teach us about mastering good communication skills?
1. Deep Listening —The key to mastering communication is listening. We need to learn to hear what people need to understand who and where they are.
Michael Hyatt has recently remarked how a communicator must “give people what they need in the context of what they want.” Sometimes we are so hurt, so scared, so confused, we are not sure what we want or need.
Jesus could sense the lamentful hums and tragic melodies behind course words. John tells us of Jesus visiting the village of Sychar in Samaria where he encounters a woman at Jacob’s well: Jesus listened deeply—spelunking the caverns of her personal story. Deep in the recesses of her story he shown light gently revealing idols of her heart—even those she was unaware of.
Addicted to men as the source of her fulfillment, Jesus laid her personal narrative bare before her. Exposed and embraced, he offered her living water—a relationship with him—a man who would never objectify or fail her. So she proclaimed to the townsfolk, “Come see a man who knew about all the things I did who knows me inside and out.” (The Message John 4:29) Do we listen deep enough to truly know someone?
2. Deep Calm — Jesus was not an anxious person. Anxiety sabotages good communication. You know what I mean: Your spouse or coworker is critical or disagrees with you; Suddenly your chest bloats with emotion potentially erupting into self defense.
We can only process one thought at a time. Either we are processing an incoming one or formulating an outgoing one—not both. As you formulate a response to someone, listening is breaking down. Calmness is the first step in deep listening; it is a discipline requiring time and practice. Only by a deep calm can we listen with non-defensive vulnerability.
3. Deep Identification — Jesus identified with those who were hurting. He could sit beside, walk in solidarity, and “feel with” someone in need. When Jesus encountered a wealthy young man with misaligned priorities, the Bible says, “And Jesus looking upon him loved him” (Mark 10:21)
4. Deeply Gracious Words — Jesus’ words were full of grace. Luke says, “all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth” (ESV Luke 4:22). They said this after he told a small gathering of Jews that he was the embodiment of Isaiah 61:1–2—the “hope” and “consolation” of Israel.” (Jeremiah 14:8; 17:13; & Luke 2:25) Gracious words are hope giving; they encourage and build people up emotionally. (1 Corinthians 14:12 & 26; Ephesians 4: 12 & 29)
5. Deeply Secure with Self (Differentiation) — Jesus was whole in his person—so confident, so secure in self, he could enter purely into conversation and relationship without compromising self. The Hebrew Bible calls this shalom, “wholeness.”
Relationships create emotional chemistry. Like chemicals, no two people react exactly the same when combined; their social and emotional DNA interact. Some are good interactions; Others, reactions.
Differentiation of self is the comfort with self to be able to make principled decisions. The more differentiated a person is, the less she or he is bullied by the looming fear of other people’s reactions.
Differentiation is the inner strength disallowing the sticky web of human emotions to highjack principled decision making. Few in this life will master this. For Jesus, one opinion mattered, that of his Father. The more confident we are in our person, message, and mission, the more effective we will be. (Matthew 22:37–40)
6. Deep Faith — Jesus Had deep trust. He never felt threatened by friend or foe. His reliance upon his Father was perfect. When rejected by others, it did not define him; Only his Father’s love did. This made him powerfully present even to those who hated him.
When sitting with Jesus, people received 100%. Attending without distraction, he experienced them holistically. If we want to be people of presence and substance in our communication, we must begin with a deep and faithful connection with God himself.
7. Deep Truth — As we develop deep calm and deep listening, it leads to deep truth. Deep truth is a compassionate boldness. A slow intentional attentiveness to our surroundings and the feelings of others will lead us to speak truth in both timely and strategic ways.
Yet speaking truth is not a license to be cruelly honest in our words. We need to always be looking over our shoulder, mindful that we most likely have the same exact stain on the back of our shirt too.
Want To Become a Calm & Skilled Communicator?
How? Practice listening. Here is an exercise: Choose someone (spouse/friend/coworker/super-villain) who may have a criticism of you. Ask them for 20–30 minutes to listen to their issues. You will do four things: (1) LISTEN ONLY (do not respond, defend, or disagree); (2) ask clarifying questions about anything you don’t understand; (3) Say thank you; and (4) go think, journal, and reflect deeply. Make a choice to learn and get to know yourself better.
Be honest with yourself. I have found that there is some truth in almost every criticism, but that may range between 1% true and 100% true. You have to open yourself to consider it. Do you want to grow? Open yourself to learn and then leverage what you learn.
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