Here are some principles of good and biblical communication for those who may struggle in this area. Something that may surprise you is that good communication begins with listening. Listening is a lost art and it is clear that very few people know how to actually listen when another person is speaking.
Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. Proverbs 18:2 (NLT)
What a great statement! I love Proverbs. They are so full of wisdom, and reveal to us how we can detect a fool. This verse is the antithesis of a fool- someone who loves to talk and does not listen- unless he is listening to himself talk! A poor listener is not listening to understand, nor are they engaged in the conversation. If he listens at all, it is not because he “has interest in understanding,” it is because it gives him a chance to speak.
This person is arrogant and wants to be center stage, they delight in calling attention to themselves. Sadly, the poor listener is quick to give advice or counsel.
He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame. Proverbs 18:13
The poor listener is not listening to understand, nor are they engaged in the conversation. They appear to be simply tolerating your time to talk, anxiously waiting for you to stop so they can start. (You can probably think of someone right now who fits that description!) They don’t really care what you have to say, they just use you as someone to bounce their words off of.
This is in contrast to the good listener, who is attentive and demonstrates patience. Someone who is a good listener will wait and hear out what you have to say before jumping in with their opinion or counsel.
An active listener demonstrates humility, and this is an important point- if we are to renew our minds, then pride has to be vanquished and humility set in its place.
“…consider others better than yourself…” Philippians 2:3(NIV)
Active listening is not a passive activity! If you are going to be giving counsel, or help you have to be sure you are listening for the problem, and the heart issues behind the problem. So, good listening requires attention. You can’t be daydreaming you have to be engaged in the business of listening.
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out. Proverbs 18:15 (NIV)
Good listeners seek out and probe for accurate and adequate knowledge of what the other person is trying to communicate. As you are listening, you want to be asking questions- you ask questions to clarify thoughts, beliefs, and desires. The reason you ask questions is to gain involvement with the person who is speaking and to get to the heart of the matter.
Asking questions helps you to avoid drawing conclusions without the facts. Here are some sample questions you can ask to see if you are a good listener:
- What is his train of thought?
- Where is he going with this? (You want to be sure you are following what he is saying.)
- Ask clarifying questions:
- What did you mean by that?
- What is your understanding of that word or phrase?
- What does this mean to you?
- What does the Bible say about that?
- You should watch his body language to help you learn How does the speaker feel about what he is saying?
- Is this an emotional topic for him?
Listen carefully to his choice of words and again ask clarifying questions when appropriate.
The important piece is this- Once you have learned to listen, you have earned the right to speak!
If you have used any of these ideas to improve your communication share with us in the comments!