8 MORE Ways to Communicate Better
Continuing our overview of God’s instructions on good communication, let’s look at more guidelines spelled out in the book of Proverbs:
1. Less is better. We should not talk just to hear ourselves speak. There are people who seem to do that. Sometimes they are the lonely or the insecure, but it seems they babble incessantly without purpose or direction. We are clearly warned about this in this verse, “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). Proverbs teaches that our words should mean something. If they don’t, people will stop listening to us. And incessant talking can lead to sin – the sin of overstatement, perhaps, or exaggeration, or lying, or gossip, or just plain inconsideration.
2. Be purposeful. A wise person considers his words before speaking. As Solomon stated, “The lips of the righteous know what is fitting . . .” (Proverbs 10:32a). The conversation of the wise is not rash or frivolous, but thoughtful and purposeful. .
3. Get the facts right. “The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction” (Proverbs 16:21). What we say should be based on knowledge, not hearsay. This verse has to do with getting our facts right. People need to be able to trust that if we make a statement, it is true and accurate. And the discernment called for in this verse means that we must be careful not to push our knowledge on those who aren’t ready to receive it. We must be patient in conversation, waiting for the right time to share what we know.
4. Guard your attitude. Then, as Proverbs 16:21, cited above, also indicates, we should share our knowledge with pleasantness. Our words should be gracious, confident, and warm so that our listeners will be more apt to accept the instruction we have to give. If our speech pattern or attitude puts up barriers to our message, we have not succeeded in communicating.
5. No spinning. It is never acceptable biblically to lie or spin the truth, but it is very difficult to find a person who doesn’t do it! It’s hard to know whom we can trust and, in fact, many of us have a built-in distrust of media, politicians, and marketers – and, perhaps, rightfully so. It is our goal, though, as followers on the way of wisdom, to always be truthful in our speech, to always be those whom others can trust to give honest answers or make credible comments. And the value of such communication is stated in this verse, “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips” (Proverbs 24:26).
6. Avoid the bad stuff. There are certain types of speech that simply shut down communication. One is gossiping. “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28). We must choose to use our words to build people up, not tear them down. Sharing negative or confidential information about another, even under the guise of a prayer request, can be classified as gossip. When in doubt, keep silent. And, if we are on the receiving end of a gossiper’s tale, we need to refuse to listen. If we don’t participate in the “news”, we will not contribute to the stirring up of dissension that this verse describes.
7. Keep secrets. Another prohibition in our speech is sharing secrets. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13). If we say we will keep a confidence, we must do it. If we think we cannot keep a secret or that we will be compelled to share the information, we should not agree to hear the message in the first place. Once trust is broken, it is a long and difficult process to rebuild it. So, the message to the wise is, “Don’t tell.”
8. Stay calm. Anger is also a block to further communication. Once anger is exposed, the words may continue, but communication is shut down. “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked” (Proverbs 10:11). Such violence will either reap violence in return or will cause the quieter party to simply stop talking and, in many cases, to physically walk away. We have a choice about what we say and how we say it. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” The combination of well-chosen words and a quiet voice can have an amazing effect.
If we learn the fine art and spiritual discipline of God-directed communication, our words will be valued, our message heard, and our relationships strengthened. Let’s take these inspired proverbs to heart and watch the difference it makes in our lives.
“Communication is the ability to ensure that people understand not only what you say, but also what you mean.” – Myles Munroe