Many people are operate under the assumption that if they are able to talk a lot, they must be pretty good communicators. Right?
I’d like to share a little bit of information with you that might change the way you think about communication, just as it changed me. Maybe the next time you think of authentic communication, your first thought won’t be of you speaking, but rather listening first.
I recently noticed something in myself that made me realize that I’m not as skillful in authentic communication as I thought. When we’re engaging in a pleasant conversation, it’s relatively easy. But what about when dealing with conflict or difficult conversation?
When facing difficult conversations are we peacemakers and do we try to resolve the issue with authentic communication? What is authentic communication? I’ve recently noticed how I tend to withdraw into my own little nut shell during a conflict, and my “authenticity” takes a backseat. I believe that God desires us to learn how to humbly and lovingly resolve conflicts in order to become better peacemakers by improving our communication.
Principle #1: Listen
There are a lot of principles to authentic communication that many people overlook. For instance, being an active listener is key to communication. Have you ever been talking to someone whom you know really isn’t listening? They’re just passively listening and looking around to see who is walking by. Or they’re just thinking about what they’re going to have for lunch while you’re talking to them. Keeping good eye contact is everything when communicating effectively with someone. Make sure when you’re talking to someone, you’re understanding what message is being communicated to you. Be present in the conversation.
Principle #2: Don’t Interrupt
Another key principle to authentic communication is a lack of interruption. Have you ever been talking to someone and they’re constantly interrupting you? This tends to happen a lot within the family household among siblings. When I recently read a devotional book, this was one element in developing effective communication. Interrupting a person while they’re talking not only shows a high level of inconsideration, but it also shows that your opinion matters more than what they’re presently telling you. Just be patient and wait to respond with your comment. Have you ever noticed during a conversation that when someone interrupts back and forth that it tends to create somewhat of a feeling of anxiety? Well, when you’re anxiously waiting and hurry yourself by interrupting, you get all jittery because you couldn’t wait to share your opinion.
Here are ten principles from the book Love That Lasts by Gary and Betsy Ricucci that share fundamental principles in authentic communication:
- Learn to express your feelings and frustration honestly, but without accusing or attacking the other person (Proverbs 11:9).
- Choose words, expressions, and tone of voice that are kind and gentle. Don’t use speech that could easily offend or spark an argument (Proverbs 15:1)
- Don’t exaggerate, distort, or stretch the truth. Avoid extreme words like never and always (Ephen=sians 4:25).
- Give actual and specific examples. If necessary, make notes before you communicate. Stay away from generalities.
- Commit yourself to seeking solutions instead of airing your grievance. Getting even isn’t the goals — you want to get things resolved (Romans 12:17-21)
- Listen to what the other person is saying, feeling, and needing. Try to detect his or her underlying concerns (James 1:19)
- Refuse to indulge bitterness, anger, withdrawal, argument. Though these emotions are normal, indulging them is sin (Ephesians 4:26)
- Don’t hesitate to acknowledge your own failure, and be quick to forgive the other person. Make sure you don’t hold a grudge (Luke 17:3-4)
- Keep talking and asking questions until you are sure that you both understand clearly what the other is saying and feeling. Encourage each other as you press toward a solution (Romans 14:19)
- Train your mouth and heart until you can say the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reason!