Posted in Communication Skills, Servant Leadership

The Failure to Communicate

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Eliza stared at her cell phone in disbelief, and read again the text she had just received.

“I’ve had concerns about our friendship for a while and have been praying about it. I need you to give me some space. I hope you understand.”

Eliza blinked back the tears and replied. “Of course, take all the time you need.”

Surely she would be able to work this out with her friend. But the message was so confusing. There had been no indication of problems in their relationship. They didn’t always see eye to eye, but Eliza thought their conversations about beliefs and ideals were engaging.

Nagging doubts raced through Eliza’s mind. What had she done? Why did her friend need space? How had she offended a friend so dear to her and how could she have missed it? With a heavy heart, Eliza resigned herself to waiting until her friend was ready to talk about it.

Moments later though, Eliza discovered her friend had cut all social media ties. She had been un-followed, un-friended, un-everything…without a word of explanation.

What we’ve got here, friends, is failure to communicate.

Communication is one of the main tasks of leaders. Without communication our team members won’t understand the vision, they won’t know how to get there, and they won’t be able to work out the kinks along the way. Communication is essential to keeping morale high and developing healthy relationships. As leaders we need to guard against the enemies that sabotage good communication.

Over-spiritualizing. The Lord may have spoken an idea or direction to your heart, but it’s your job to communicate it. You have probably spent hours prayerfully mulling over the concept, but nobody else has been in your mental space or heard your prayers. Take the thoughts downloaded to you. Write it down. Talk about it. Present it in different formats. Share it with your followers. Share it again. And again. Keep sharing until they see the picture the Lord has imparted to you.

Then the LORD answered me and said, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run” (Habakkuk 2:2).

Assumptions. Making assumptions is one of the biggest obstacles of effective communication. We interpret the words we hear and behaviors we see to mean something without clarifying it. Often times our assumptions lead to offense. Misunderstandings can be avoided if we take the time to graciously ask, “What do you mean by…” or “What was going on when…” A popular statement among churches today is “Speak the truth in love.” However, if you ask different people what that looks like to them, you will get very different answers. Don’t assume you’re on the same page without talking about it.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).

Fear. The presence of fear holds us back from walking in love. We are afraid to bring up difficult issues, because we want to be liked or we don’t want to upset others (which often has its roots in wanting to be liked). We find it easier to talk to others about our concerns (to get their perspective and ask for prayer, of course) rather than go directly to the person. Or we may avoid talking at all until we feel it’s time to terminate a relationship. Leadership requires courage to do what is beneficial to our followers even if it means experiencing personal discomfort. There may be times when someone isn’t willing to communicate or refuses to address important issues, but don’t cross that bridge until you get there. When you do, God will give you grace and wisdom for the situation.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

Avoid the pit falls so common in communication. Love your followers (and colleagues) enough to communicate effectively. Take risks to communicate honestly and well with those you care about. It may seem to take a lot of effort and energy, but in the long run a failure to communicate takes much more time to fix.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me communicate in ways that please You and bless others. Give me courage to move beyond fear and address important issues. Thank you for guiding me to be an effective leader in each of the areas you have placed me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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