Effective Communication

What creates effective communication? Matthew 7:1 tells us one of the most important keys. “Judge not, that you be not judged.” A Pastor friend of ours who is extremely kind, considerate, and loving once told us that two important keys he has learned are to never assume anything about anyone, and to always choose to believe the best about everyone. He said if he sees a friend or acquaintance somewhere and they don’t say “Hi!” he will not even allow himself to think that they might be mad at him or that they were being rude. Instead he thinks, “They must be extremely busy to have not said hello.” He will pray for them that God will meet their needs with whatever is causing them to be so preoccupied, and then he chooses to not think about it again. 
This example illustrates an important truth. Some people have communication difficulties with others because they judge the other’s intentions or actions incorrectly, rather than expecting the best out of them. If a person chooses to “read in” to others actions and become offended because of it, someone will probably come along and do the same thing to them fairly soon. Sometimes this happens back and forth in a marriage repeatedly and creates havoc. It is wise, rather, to not judge or read into actions. Then others are more likely to give us the same courtesy in return. Let us be abundant in grace and rich in mercy towards others! 
Another good communication key is asking instead of telling. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you…” If we are to give God the courtesy of asking Him for something instead of telling Him to give it to us, shouldn’t we pay the same courtesy to our spouse and family? When people feel that others owe them something, they tell them to do things. We should never have the attitude that anyone owes us anything. 
While a person can probably get away with this in some situations such as with subordinates at work, it is still not the polite or kind thing to do. Our spouse is not our servant (although we should eagerly serve each other out of love) but rather our companion. When orders are given in a marriage, it quickly turns the relationship from one of love and companionship to one of master and servant and most people don’t enjoy a marriage like that. 
Even with our children, it is wise to ask them to do things rather than tell them, in order to teach them how to be polite to others. Simple things like asking them to please pass something at the dinner table or to please pick up their toys will help them to understand how to be polite and mannerly. 
Asking questions also goes a long way in preventing us from making false accusations. Rather than saying, “You hurt my feelings when you said…” it is good to start with, “Do I understand this correctly? Are you saying…?” Asking questions also opens the door to considering more options when discussing a topic. When facing a challenging situation, we can approach the problem by each person patiently discussing options that could remedy the situation.
Another important key to effective communication is to relate our feelings through a word picture that the other person can relate well with rather than just telling it like it is. Especially when recurring obstacles arise, word pictures are often the best answer. We can pray and ask God for a word picture our spouse will identify with in order to make a lasting impact and permanent change.
We find that God used a word picture through the prophet Nathan to correct King David in 2 Samuel 2:1-7. 
Then the Lord send Nathan to David, and he came to him, and said to him: ‘There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lam which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. 
And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take of his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.’
So Davids anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore four fold for the Lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”
Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are this man!’
God knew it would touch David’s heart and lead him to repentance if he illustrated David’s sin through a word picture without letting him initially know that he was the one who had committed the sin. God also knew that since David used to be a sheepherder, he would relate well with a story about a lamb. It worked and David repented. 
One last key we would offer on being an effective communicator is to judge your current communication style and make any necessary adjustments. Matthew 7:17 tells us that “…every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Is your current communication with your spouse and family producing good or bad fruit? Is communication between you and your loved ones done with love and respect or with harshness and dishonor?
It is important to avoid blaming others for how we communicate. Whenever a conversation becomes heated, we have the opportunity to put either water or fuel on the situation with our words. The Bible says that a soft answer turns away wrath. Let’s make a quality decision today to put fires out with our words rather than fuel them. 
I was able to learn this through Shaun’s example to me in our home. I remember several times early in our marriage when I gave him a provoking comment or acted frustrated about something. He didn’t respond in anger. In fact one time he came back to me only a few minutes later and said, “Honey, according to the Bible, my family’s condition is a reflection of my leadership. I asked the Lord why you just responded shortly with me and He told me I haven’t given you enough quality time lately. I’m canceling my meeting tonight because I have no business leading anything if my family life isn’t in order.”
His loving response to my attitude taught me a valuable lesson. I learned that no one else can make me get angry. He certainly could have responded sharply and let it turn into an argument, but he didn’t because he is a wise man. Over the years he has allowed God to help him become a good tree that consistently communicates with kindness, bearing good fruit. 
When we apply the communication principles that God shows us in His Word, we will find ourselves first being an example of God’s love to others in our home, and then eventually receiving God’s love through them in how they communicate with us also. We hopefully married our spouse because we valued them and wanted to be with them forever. Let’s demonstrate to them today that we are still thankful we married them by showing respect and kindness when we communicate. 
Effective Communication Keys
1. Don’t assume anything without asking. 
2. Always expect the best in others. 
3. Ask instead of tell. 
4. Use word pictures. 
5. When communicating, approach your spouse or loved one as your friend rather than your opponent. 
We pray that this encourages you to watch how you communicate and continually bear good fruit!
Pastors Shaun & Amy Gustafson