If you are like me, you have had times when you have thought that good communication is not possible. You may have even said, “We’re too different,” “We just think on different wavelengths,” or “I can’t stand that person.” However, the truth is we can have good communication and further I believe the Bible calls us to communicate well (see for example Eph. 4:25, 29, 31-32; Ps. 141:3; Prov. 18:13, 17; 21:23; 25:11). We see this all over Scripture. I have been reading a little pamphlet by Stuart Scott called Communication and Conflict Resolution, and yes, I am mainly reading it for my own marriage but I hope that this helps you as well; at work, at home, and aboard.
There are many negative effects to poor communication. I could list them but I am sure that you acutely feel many of them already. However, I will remind you and myself that our horizontal relationships between friends and family are not the only relationship effected by our communication. Our vertical relationship with God can also be greatly effected by our communication. If we dishonor God by what we say it could hinder not only human fellowship but also our fellowship with God. If we speak unkindly or lie to someone that also is not a good testimony before an unbelieving world. In the same way, we can very much honor God by our communication with our fellow humans. All of this is to say that there is more at stake than just being polite or culturally appropriate in our communication (see James 3:5-6 to be reminded of the importance of what we say).
When we think about communication, one of the first things we must address is where it is that what we say comes from. So, where does it come from? What we say comes out of our heart (see for example Matt. 12:34). From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Thus, it is vital that we not merely fix what people say (the external) and gloss over what is going on inside (the internal).
Stuart Scott in his helpful pamphlet gives six prerequisites to good communication. I will give each of his points with Scripture reference:
1. You must want to please God more than anything else (2 Cor. 5:9). Our desire in conversation must not be to make much of ourselves, to prove we’re right, but to honor and make much of God.
2. You must be humble (Eph. 4:1-3). We must realize that we are sinful and it is very likely that we have done wrong. We must acknowledge that even if we have not done wrong in this particular instance, we have before and we probably will soon.
3. You must be aware that you are accountable to God for everything you communicate (Matt. 12:36). As we talk, no matter the conversation, we should not take it lightly for we will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account.
4. You must know how to listen (Prov. 18:13; James 1:19). Not only should we attentively listen to others because it is the right thing to do, not only because it is in line with the Golden Rule, but because without it there can be no meaningful conversation.
5. You must know that communication involves more than just words (James 4:17). Whether we know it or not or like it or not the volume of our voice, the gestures of our hands, the ruling of our eyes, the posture of our body, and numerous other things communicate to people.
6. You must be willing to put forth the effort and spend the time it takes to communicate (Rom. 12:10-12). In Romans, we are told to be “devoted to one another.” This devotion takes time and intentionality.
Something else helpful that Scott gave was four specific principals for biblical communication: 1) Speak the truth (Eph. 4:25, 29-32), 2) Speak with purpose (1 Cor. 10:31; Eph.4:29; Col. 4:6), 3) Speak clearly (Prov. 10:19; 15:28; Matt. 5:37), and 4) Speak at the right time (Prov. 25:11).
There is a lot more that I could say and a lot more that Scott said that was helpful that I could share. However, I think a good start is simply realizing that good communication is important and something that the Bible is not silent on and second good communication is something that we must be intentional about. So take a few minutes now and evaluate your communication.