In my work as a pastor, leader, counselor and even husband/dad I can confidently say that communication is often what separates best from good and even good from bad. As a people, we tend to assume what others think, mean and plan. And most of our assumptions are the worst, not the best. I’d like to offer 5 ways that your communication can improve just about everything.
1. Communicate what’s really going on. When I say communication improves things I mean communicating what is true and often below the surface. This requires that we must be in tune and self aware. I’ve found myself frustrated with a staff member or even with one of my kids and if I don’t pause and take the time to reflect on why I’m frustrated I will end up communicating something that is either not true or not helpful for a better future. Before communication can improve anything, I need to understand what is important to me, how I feel and what is important for the other person to know. In marriage counseling, I’ve worked with couples who never learned to be in tune with the “why” behind their own actions and thoughts and therefore are unable to communicate anything that would be truly helpful for their spouse to know. If they learned to reflect on why something bothered them, they’d be able to offer insights that could actually improve the interactions.
2. Communicate to cast vision. A clear vision for a church, an organization, a family, a relationship will motivate others and create direction. If we have no idea where we want to be, then we won’t know when we get there and we won’t know how to make good decisions. In my experience, people have vision but either have never really taken the time to write it down/ think it through or worse, have never communicated it. This leaves people to “figure it out” and often results in many different directions and ongoing frustration. A clear vision can be compelling and provide necessary fuel to push through challenging circumstances. A clear vision can unite very different people to work hard together.
3. Communicate to show care. While care and love can definitely be experienced through actions, words also communicate care. As I think back to my time as a younger leader it was a few people who said, “I believe in you” that made a world of difference both in my perseverance and in how I led. Unfortunately, I’ve met several church staff members who never knew where they stood with their direct supervisor/ pastor. How many marriages or families would be exponentially improved if members heard how the other person felt about them. It really can change an entire atmosphere just to hear the positive words of others.
4. Communicate the tough stuff. As a rule of thumb, most of us suffer from an extreme phobia of conflict. And if you enjoy conflict that’s a whole other issue. However, if we never wade into the waters of challenging conversations the best we can hope for is a surfacy and shallow relationship. I certainly don’t enjoy conflict and I dread confrontation, yet I know how much better things can be on the other side. I’ve made myself crazy, stressed out and incredibly awkward around others because I ran from sharing my heart and confronting a person in my life. While it’s really hard to do it the relationship holds the best promise for growth when we lovingly have the hard conversations. Obviously I’d highly recommend you go back to #1 before even considering this since you want to make sure you’re confronting with truth and not just with feelings and emotion.
5. Communicate intentionally.The last way we’ll mention to use communication to improve just about everything is to realize that it won’t just happen. We need to intentionally take the time, or I should say “make the time” to communicate. My wife and I added a regular practice of morning coffee before work at least 3-4 times a week. We started this a few years ago and it’s reaped incredible results for us. Having these few minutes most mornings to communicate about really anything has strengthened our relationship, lessened opportunities for bad assumptions and made us feel more connected. Don’t assume people know anything, take the time to communicate. Our weekly staff meetings at the church and our bi-monthly elder meetings as well as countless emails, texts, etc. have allowed our leadership teams to have greater unity and to be moving in the same direction. I know many folks don’t enjoy meetings, thinking that they take time away from the tasks, but we’re finding that our meetings make our tasks even more fruitful and there is less being done that doesn’t move the ball downfield toward the accomplishment of the vision. In other words, good communication promotes the vision to become realized faster and stronger than ever before.
While we communicate all the time, I’ve found that few of us really stop to think about what we’re communicating, how we’re communicating and what communication could really accomplish. I hope these 5 thoughts will help us all communicate with greater effectiveness.