“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” – Plato

Have you ever met someone who doesn’t talk with you or to you, as much as they talk at you, over you and around you? Those are just words, not communication.

Real communication is completely different from exchanging words. Because someone constantly talks, it doesn’t mean they are communicating. In some cases, they are simply stringing words together. If you want one of the quickest ways to improve a relationship, regardless of the type, learn to communicate with the other person rather than just talk. Honest, open, heart felt communication is one of the greatest gifts we can offer to our spouse, sister, aunt, co-worker, boss, neighbor etc., and to ourselves. It means we are taking the time to hear others as well as having the confidence that we have been heard.

It means that you have clear understanding of what you expect and what others expect from you. And you have an understanding of the changes you may need to make, the forgiveness you may need for yourself and the forgiveness you may need to offer. Open, honest communication eliminates a lot of the fear and uncertainty that your words, or the words of others, may be causing.

Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about. By the way, these are made up. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of my imagination.  Any resemblance to actual events or persons is entirely coincidental.

Example 1: A Northstar Group leader notices that Jill, in their small group, talks freely with other group members before and after the group session. But she never made a comment during the session. The leader discussed her observations with Jill. She commented that Jill had some unique perspectives and some good ideas. Jill agreed that she was much more comfortable talking in private than in public. After some discussion, and getting to know what Jill’s concerns were, the leader encouraged her to share her thoughts with the group. Her understanding of Jill’s hesitancy to speak, and then working out a solution Jill was comfortable with, made all the difference.  The results make it communication.

Example 2: A father was struggling to stay in touch with his teenage daughter. During one rather heated conversation where he learned something he didn’t know, in a combination of hurt and anger, he asked, “Why didn’t you tell me?” His daughter’s response hit him between the eyes. She said, “I did tell you. But you were too busy lecturing me to listen.” The father was stunned, apologized and said there will be changes. Rather than immediately trying to solve her problem, he first listens, and calmly discusses the subject with his daughter. And for the first time in years, there is two-way communication between the two of them.

Example 3: Joe just wanted to tell his wife his feelings about a situation in their life and get it over with. His wife, Anne, wanted to talk it out. Joe wanted to confront the conflict straight on, but Anne wanted to avoid it if at all possible. When Joe comes home from work, he wants to make a beeline for the recliner and watch the Discovery Channel. Anne wants to talk about her day volunteering at the hospital. Then one day, Joe realizes that he and his wife communicate differently, and not enough. He decided to make some changes without assigning blame. They got together and talked about their respective communication styles and more importantly their communication needs. They found common ground and a system that works for them through communication.

If you will learn to communicate, rather than just talk in your relationships, you will eliminate much of the harm your words do by never uttering them.

Discussion Questions:
1. Give an example in your life of communicating versus talking? Are we more likely to”fight” or take “flight?” How does that impact our relationships?
2. How do we silence our own inner monologue long enough to really hear another person? Is it hard to be honest about ourselves without being judged?
3. What is it like when our body language conflicts with our words? How does this impact the effectiveness of communication?
4. How would it look if we brought God into all of our relationships?
5. How do we create space for God in your communication with others?