We don’t always link our Christian walk to better communication, and yet, the God who created us for relationships has not left us without a guide on how to conduct ourselves within them. He communicates with us through His written Word, and we communicate with Him through prayer, showing there are two sides to an exchange of information – which is what communication is – listening and speaking.
The Bible includes many specific instructions on how we should communicate with each other, assuring us that we will be blessed in our relationships if we heed this advice. While it may not always be easy to communicate in a godly way, we can rest assured that God has given us the Holy Spirit to help us, and He will make a way for us to overcome what might seem extremely difficult or even impossible.
How to Communicate Better
Here then are some dos and don’ts from God’s Word on how to communicate better.
DO start with your heart.
No matter which words come out of our mouth, or how silently we listen to another person, if our hearts are not in the right place, the relationship will not progress. Proverbs 4:23 speaks of the importance of guarding our heart, because all our words and actions flow from there, and what we treasure will drive our choices.
If we’re looking to reach some sort of selfish ambition, and not looking to the interests of others, as God has commanded, our communication will not be built on the right foundation. Before you have an important conversation, ask yourself what your motive is and be honest about your answer.
DO use gracious words.
Gracious words that encourage and build others up can be extremely powerful. They promote instruction, and Proverbs 16:21 tells us that pleasant words are persuasive. They are healing: “gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24) and that the lips of the righteous nourish many (Proverbs 10:21). When we are looking for ways to communicate better, we would be wise to use our words in the following ways:
DO strive for peace.Hebrews 12:14 instructs us to “make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord.” This means that when we engage in communication, peace should be our priority, as opposed to merely getting our point.
DO tell the truth in love.
Seeking peace at all costs does not mean that we do not speak the truth and cover up our true feelings because it might create discord. Rather, we are instructed to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
When we do this, not only are we being obedient to God’s instruction, but we are more likely to get through to the person to whom we are speaking. When we focus on how to communicate better through lovingly saying things, the truth that we deliver (even if it is a hard one) will be more readily received.
DO be gentle and patient.
It’s so difficult to be gentle and patient when we share a difference of opinion with someone, especially someone close to us or whose response has an impact on our lives. The good news is that, while this is a high calling, it is possible. As Christians, we are all gifted with these very fruits of the Spirit!
If we pray and ask God for help on how to communicate better with gentleness and patience, He will surely answer. The key is that we need to be more concerned with loving God and His ways, rather than being concerned with our own vindication.
DO focus on the interests of others.
Linked to the point above, when we communicate, we need to take the focus off ourselves, and our pride or need to be rewarded by someone affirming what we say and put the focus onto others instead. We were not made to live for ourselves, and so when we are self-focused, we rob ourselves of joy and peace. When we ask for God’s help to focus on others, our communication will naturally improve.
DO listen well.Listening properly to someone is a real skill that must be learned. It helps to paraphrase what the person has said once they are finished speaking so that you can both be sure that the right message has been communicated and that nothing has been lost in translation. Listening properly can also include asking questions to clarify and show the person that you are actively taking in what they are saying.
DO watch your body language.
The experts claim that a staggering percentage of our communication is non-verbal and comes down to our body language and facial expressions. When you are looking for how to communicate better, make sure you lean forward, make eye contact with the person who is speaking, and avoid any folded arms or stiff postures.
DON’T use your words to break down.
In the same way words can build people up, they can also break down and be destructive. Most marriages that have ended can attribute their downfall to a slew of ungodly communication over time, as is most likely the case with business partnerships that have broken up or friendships that have soured.
DON’T be argumentative.
The book of Proverbs has some pithy expressions, including the line, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 25:24). Being argumentative while communicating obstructs the flow of information and leads to unfruitful quarrels and other unproductive results.
DON’T be quick to speak.
The book of James makes it explicitly clear, “…everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” (James 1:19b) and the principle of holding one’s tongue is emphasized in both Proverbs 15:28 (“The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil) and Proverbs 10:19 (“Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues”). When looking for advice on how to communicate better, the Bible gives us the useful principle of not being too quick to speak.
DON’T speak rashly or harshly.Speaking rashly means to speak without carefully considering what we are saying. Proverbs 13:3 warns against this when it says, “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin” – the effect is damaging to the person who communicates in this manner.
Harsh words are those that are unpleasantly rough, cruel, or severe and are usually spoken in anger but do not yield the desired goal. When considering how to communicate better, we’d do well to remember that harsh words can also seem acceptable on paper but be spoken in a tone that is insincere, sarcastic, and achieves the effect of piercing like a sword.
Not interrupting is a basic etiquette rule learned in early childhood, but it’s surprising how often adults fall into the trap too. When we interrupt, we are showing that we consider what we think and have to say as being of greater importance than the person speaking, so when focusing on how to communicate better, take into consideration how interjections in your conversation may be diminishing the quality of your relationships.
DON’T hear but not listen.
Lastly but by no means least, we can show all signs of actively taking in what another person is saying, but not be listening to what they are saying. Often in the context of an argument, we make assumptions about what a person thinks, and so judge their words considering those assumptions.
Learning how to communicate better means putting those assumptions to one side and focusing intently on what the person is saying. When we humble ourselves and listen properly, we start to see their perspective and realize that their point may have more validity than we ever gave it credit for.
Effective communication is a powerful tool that can enrich our relationships and honor God. We can be grateful that the Bible gives us all the insight we need on how to communicate better, and in Christ, it is possible to achieve the heart change and fruit of the Spirit needed to make what we say and how we say it match our inner thought life.
“Talking on the Beach”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Friends”, Courtesy of Trung Thanh, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Conversing”, Courtesy of Christin Hume, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Two Women Chatting”, Courtesy of Christina @ wocintechchat.com, Unsplash.com, CC0 License