Numerous studies have identified communication as one of the top reasons for couple’s therapy, as well as one of the top reasons for divorce. Communication problems impact all sorts of relationships. Have you ever struggled to communicate with someone? If so, who? Your spouse? Your children? Your parents? Everyone? The average person speaks between 5,000-16,000 words per day! Yet, the motor mouth and the close-lipped struggle to truly understand and effectively communicate with one another. We may say a lot or a little, but how beneficial and truly impactful is our communication? God’s word has much to say, pun intended, regarding communication. Here then are three biblical guidelines to better relationships through effective communication.
“Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of
understanding will draw it out.” Proverbs 20:5
Listen to hear. Part of the key to effective communication is listening to hear instead of listening to reply. It’s all too easy to get caught up in what we want to say and forget to truly hear the other person. We don’t have to formulate a magical response in order to be good communicators. God’s Word guides us to listen to the other person so that we truly hear them. Only after we listen well, and truly understand, can we effectively respond.
Prepare your response. How do you handle communication in difficult situations? Do you need space from others to work through issues independently? Maybe you desperately need a quiet place to think and perhaps pray? Or when difficult situations arise do you seek out someone to help process your thoughts and feelings? Maybe you need to share your burdens to find relief? Does it bother you when your spouse, child, or friends deal with difficulty, suffering, or hard times differently than you?
“Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray.”
“Call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver thee.”
“A wise man listens to advice.”
Proverbs 12:15, 13:10
“For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war, and in a multitude of counselors there is safety”.
It is a good thing to take time to yourself to pray and work through difficulties. It is good to call to the Lord for help in difficult situations. It is wise to take counsel from others in difficult times.
Anyone who’s ever been married knows you don’t have to lead a nation to wage war in difficult circumstances with others. Pray, call to the Lord, and seek wise counsel before you launch an attack and cause irreparable harm. I can personally attest to the value of seeking counsel from a wise older Christian woman whose advice saved me from a lot of heartache. She instructed me in a godly way how to walk in difficulty and I look back with gratitude and thank God for her counsel in that particular battle.
Speak with wisdom. Wisdom is understanding how to apply knowledge. When it comes to good communication, knowing what to say comes after listening to hear and preparing your response. But, understanding how to say it is a different thing entirely.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
“Know this my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
Research shows the human brain functions on the level of a Rhesus monkey when experiencing anger. So, speaking when angry is usually a bad idea. If possible, allow the emotion to subside, give yourself a 20-minute break, make sure you have truly heard the other person, prepare your response, and then speak calmly and thoughtfully. In other words, speak with wisdom.
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for behind the words.” -Roy T. Bennett. Communication is a gift given to us by God. We can use this precious gift to build up our relationships with others, or we can use it to destroy them. May we enjoy the benefits of communication and heed the dangers of it, for in it lies much power.
Brooke Russell is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Cord of 3 Counseling, wife of 9 years and mother of 3.