Communication: Part III
B. Keith Chapman, President & CEO
In Part 2, we learned about the obstacles and distorting factors of effective communication. Many of these were emotional responses to human interaction that require a good deal of self-control to manage appropriately. Others were simple environmental elements that made it difficult to communicate without distraction. Both of which have a significant impact on the clarity of the message that is being sent and received. In Part 3, let’s explore another critical element of communication that can set the stage for success when communicating with obstacles and distorting factors; likewise, the wrong approach can fuel disruption and elevate emotions. Even a simple non-confrontational message delivered with the wrong initial approach can impede communication and damage relationships.
For years, researchers have tried to determine the exact amount of time that it takes for a person or group to develop an impression of someone they meet or hear speak for the first time. The timing can vary from 60 seconds to milliseconds. The point being, it does not take long for someone to develop a perception about your mood, intentions or reasoning behind the communication. The same process occurs each time two or more people communicate. An inherent response for most is to respond in the same fashion as we perceive the other person. The age-old philosophy of “An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth”. At the very least, we tend to posture and prepare to defend ourselves if we believe someone else is being critical or questioning our skills and abilities. However, the more you know about an individual and their core operating values often determines the level of tolerance and forgiveness you may have in the conversation. The sender of the information has the largest responsibility when it comes to approach. Remember, people often do not have the same communication skills. As such, you may have to use what seems like an excessive amount of effort to be successful in communicating with others that don’t focus on effective communication. However, the receiver is not off the hook entirely, they remain responsible for their actions and responses.
Some advice for the sender of information can be found in Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” The seasoning analogy in this passage suggests that communication should be pleasant and easily understood. After all, not many people enjoy bland or improperly seasoned food. It is safe to assume that we will all have to deliver bad or difficult information at some point in time. However, the manner in which it is communicated will often make the largest impact in the moment and with the relationship.
For the receiver, Proverbs 15:1 offers some good advice, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.” The passage addressed the response to communication. Often, you will be presented with people who are not focused on their initial approach to a conversation. This will likely result in the opportunity for you to practice the principles found in the passage. Assumptions and inaccurate information often lead to conflict and poor communication. Soft and factual responses can help defuse emotion and help get the conversation back on track.
Challenge: Consider your approach when communicating with people. Be sensitive to the timing, method and overall objective. Remember, you may have to try much harder with others who are not as focused on the effectiveness of communication. As such, you will likely have to exercise more self-control and respond using grace, soft answers, and factual information.
Published: September 2018