If you are like me, you have had times when you have thought that good communication is not possible. You may have even said, “We’re too different,” “We just think on different wavelengths,” or “I can’t stand that person.” However, the truth is we can have good communication and further Scripture tells us to (see for example Eph. 4:25, 29, 31-32; Ps. 141:3; Prov. 18:13, 17; 21:23; 25:11). I have been reading a little pamphlet by Stuart Scott called Communication and Conflict Resolution, and yes, I am mainly reading it for my own marriage but I hope that this helps you as well; at work, at home, and aboard.
There are many negative effects to poor communication. I could list them but I am sure that you acutely feel many of them already. However, I will remind you, and myself, that our horizontal relationships between friends and family are not the only relationship effected by our communication. Our vertical relationship with God can also be greatly effected by our communication. If we dishonor God by what we say it hinders not only human fellowships but also our fellowship with God (cf. Matt. 5:23-24). If we speak unkindly or lie to someone that is also not a good testimony before an unbelieving world. However, the opposite is also true, we can greatly honor God by our communication with our fellow humans. All of this is to say that there is more at stake than just being polite or culturally appropriate in our communication (see James 3:5-6 to be reminded of the importance of what we say).
As we think about communication; what we say, and how we say it. We must understand why we say it, i.e. where it comes from. So, where does it come from? The Bible says that what we say comes out of our heart (cf. Matt. 12:34). From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Thus, it is vital that we not merely fix what people say (the external) and gloss over what is going on inside (the internal).
Stuart Scott gives six prerequisites to good communication that don’t gloss over what is going on inside. I will give each of his points with Scripture reference:
1. You must want to please God more than anything else (2 Cor. 5:9). Our desire in conversation must not be to make much of ourselves, to prove we’re right, but to honor and make much of God.
2. You must be humble (Eph. 4:1-3). We must realize that we are sinful and it is very likely that we have done wrong. We must acknowledge that even if we have not done wrong in this particular instance, we have before and we will again soon.
3. You must be aware that you are accountable to God for everything you communicate (Matt. 12:36). As we talk, no matter the conversation, we should not take it lightly for we will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account.
4. You must know how to listen (Prov. 18:13; James 1:19). Not only should we attentively listen to others because it is the right thing to do, not only because it is in line with the Golden Rule, but because without it there can be no meaningful conversation.
5. You must know that communication involves more than just words (James 4:17). Whether we know it or not, or like it or not, the volume of our voice, the gestures of our hands, the ruling of our eyes, the posture of our body, and numerous other things communicate to people.
6. You must be willing to put forth the effort and spend the time it takes to communicate (Rom. 12:10-12). In Romans, we are told to be “devoted to one another.” This devotion takes time and intentionality.
Scott also gave four specific principals for biblical communication: 1) Speak the truth (Eph. 4:25, 29-32), 2) Speak with purpose (1 Cor. 10:31; Eph.4:29; Col. 4:6), 3) Speak clearly (Prov. 10:19; 15:28; Matt. 5:37), and 4) Speak at the right time (Prov. 25:11).
There is a lot more that I could say and a lot more that Scott said that was helpful. However, I think a good start is simply realizing that good communication is important and something that the Bible is not silent on. Second, good communication is something that we must be intentional about. It takes time. It takes work.
Take time now and evaluate your communication. Will you put these points into practice to improve your communication? Will you honor God by working at communication?