7 Ways to Communicate Better
Communication is key to developing good relationships, so any wise person will want to improve his/her communication skills. Fortunately, the writers of Proverbs give us a lot of help in this area. Read on for the first seven of their keys to successful communication.
1. Listen. We listen while doing something else and, most of the time, we listen half-heartedly. But Solomon advises, “A false witness will perish, but the word of a man who hears attentively will endure and go unchallenged” (Proverbs 21:28 Amplified Bible). While this verse advises attentive listening, we instead sometimes cut people off in mid-sentence, we jump to the wrong conclusions about what they are trying to tell us, or we answer questions they are not really asking. The caution here is that that kind of behavior is foolish and will bring us shame. Wisdom means learning to listen.
2. Choose your time. Once we have listened, it is our turn to talk and we are advised to respond with timely words: “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply – and how good is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23). This proverb reminds us that we should be in control not only of what we say but when we say it. We need to choose the right moment to inject our thoughts into a conversation. We also need to be ready to respond appropriately at any time to someone who needs an encouraging word or wise advice, and we need to be ready to share the truth of the gospel message at any time someone asks the reason for the hope that is within us as we are reminded in I Peter 3:15. Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s nudges will help us to always be ready, but then to choose the right time to speak.
3. Use the right words. Not only should our words be timely, but they also need to be appropriate. “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction” (Proverbs 16:23). If we want our lips to promote instruction as this proverb says, we must help people care about what we have to say. And we do that, in part by letting our hearts guide what we say. As soon as we open our mouths, people begin to make judgments about us. We need to show that we care about our listener and we care about our message. Once we know they are tuned in to us on a relational level, we have an opportunity to persuade with our words.
4. Plan ahead. The way we speak is important. Proverbs 15:2 says, “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge.” The Hebrew word for commends is the word that means arranges. The same word is used, for example, in speaking of Jezebel when the Old Testament historian describes the way she arranged her hair (2 Kings 9:30). The implication in Proverbs is that the way we arrange our speech is important. It needs to be appropriate in order to be effective.
5. Be careful of tone. The tone of voice is important, too. Proverbs 27:14 warns, “If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.” The words may be words of blessing, but the delivery is going to elicit anger instead of joy. We need to think about what we say before we say it, state our viewpoint in a way that makes logical sense to the hearer, do it all with body language and voice that work in consistency with the message we want to get across, and really care whether our listeners receive our message. Communication can be complicated!
6. Don’t be argumentative. The Bible is clear throughout that our speech must honor God and, therefore, must be pure. We are told to “Put away perversity from your mouth; (Proverbs 4:24a). In this verse, perversity means being obstinate or stubborn in opposing what is reasonable, right, and accepted. Someone who is perverse is a contrarian and often just wants to argue. There are times, of course, when it is appropriate to counter a statement and there are times of good-natured discussions that focus on truth, not personalities. But there are those (and we all know some) who are simply perverse.
7. Keep it pure. The part of Proverbs 4:24 says, “. . . keep corrupt talk far from your lips”. Speech that is corrupt is the opposite of speech that is pure, good, and even godly. God will never honor or bless impure speech. We must guard our thoughts and our mouths carefully to say only that which is pure, honest, and good.
We’re not done yet! Watch for our next post which will explore eight more ways to communicate God’s way.
“Just as love of God begins in listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.” – Dietrich Boenhoffer