Posted in Communication Skills

The Art of Clarifying

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My husband, Jonathan, has the worse luck with drive through restaurants. There is something about the pitch of his voice that makes it difficult for the person on the other end of the speaker to hear him. It doesn’t matter where he goes or who is there to take his order, his experience is the same.

“I’m sorry, would you say that again.”
“I can’t hear what you’re saying. Please repeat that.”
“Ummm…Have you said anything yet? I don’t hear anything.”

If I were Jonathan, I would quit trying the drive through and go directly inside. But he isn’t deterred in the slightest. He keeps going back, determined to enjoy the convenience of staying in the car, and work through the inconveniences of communication difficulties.

Effective communication is rarely easy. Most of us don’t have problems ordering at a drive through. However, sharing an important concept on the job or working through a relational issue can create quite a challenge. But it’s worth the effort for the sake of our personal or work relationships.

As a young woman I used to imagine being married to a wonderful, thoughtful, romantic man. He would sweep me off my feet and know what I was thinking without me needing to say a word. In fact, the more he loved me the more his mind reading abilities would increase. I went through a lot of disappointment and heart ache before I realized how unrealistic my expectations were.

I am married to an amazing man who loves me very much, but he is no mind reader. After almost 32 years of marriage I realize more than ever how important it is to invest time in effective communication.

Each of us brings our own experiences and mindsets to the table, but we must be careful not to assume that others, even those closest to us, have the same perspective. Assumptions stand in the way of communicating well.

When we do not assume, we are more comfortable practicing clarification. Clarification is a type of reflection that seeks to remove ambiguity, confusion, or misunderstanding.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask for more information. In some settings, I can hear words but I don’t grasp the concepts. I can either pretend that I understand, or I can ask questions in order to understand. To me, effective communication is more important than looking intelligent. I set aside “my image,” to ask questions because I want to truly understand.

What did you mean when you said ____________?

What does that look like to you?

When, where, how, or why questions are great for helping to clear things up.

Also, don’t be in a hurry. Hurry is another obstacle that hinders effective communication. If it’s important, you can’t rush the process. Approach the subject when there is time. The clarifying statement is another tool to guide the conversation.
I hear you saying __________. Is that correct?

It sounds like you feel _____________. What else would you like to add?

Let me summarize your main points. __________ Did I cover them all?

Practicing clarification requires courage and time. A crucial part of effective communication, the goal is to promote understanding, so that you and I can be on the same page and work together.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry (James 1:19).

May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me to communicate clearly and with grace. Teach me how to treat others the way I want to be treated and to build understanding with those around me. May I become good at clarifying. I long to be an ambassador of peace, representing You in speech and action. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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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.