Levels of Communication

While we may pride ourselves in being open and honest with others, the truth is we all have to put on suits of armor to protect our thoughts and feelings. From the moment Adam and Eve recognized their sin, they sought to cover themselves and hide. They no longer wanted to be open and honest with God. Each of us, in our own way, does the same. We develop a fake outer layer that hide inner needs.

The following levels of communication are stages of personal development that will bring you out of hiding in order to communicate honestly with God, to face truth and to be vulnerable with others.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves … and they hid from the LORD God.” (Genesis 3:7–8)

Level #1 Common (superficial): General remarks or inquiries that are appropriate between strangers represent the most superficial level of communication. While this kind of communication is often only a polite exchange to acknowledge someone, it can also open the door to deeper levels of communicating.

  • Examples: “Nice to meet you.” “Where are the elevators?”
  • Biblical Example: John 4:7–9.

Level #2 Casual: Statements and information are shared, but no real personal interaction occurs. This level of communication centers on other people, events or places.

  • Examples: “Did you know Mary Jones when you grew up?” “Have you ever been to the ocean?”
  • Biblical Example: Read John 4:10–11

Level #3 Comfortable: Thoughts and ideas are communicated in this first step toward risk taking. Objections, judgments, and decisions are easily expressed. True interaction is still guarded while one’s emotional antenna looks for any signs of disapproval or rejection.

  • Examples: “I really think the government has too much control over our children’s education.” “It would be hard to live in a climate that has extremely cold winters.”
  • Biblical Example: Read John 4:12–14

Level #4 Caring: Feelings and emotions are shared by moving beyond “head talk” into revealing “who I am.” Ideas are still communicated, but now the facts are accompanied by how I really feel about these ideas. I am expressing a sincere desire that you know and understand me. I am willing to risk sharing my own perspective so that I can then understand yours. And I will do so with courtesy.

  • Examples: “God has given you many talents … and sometimes I feel inferior.” “I think you are very smart … and it makes me proud to be your friend.”
  • Biblical Example: Read John 4:16–26

Level #5 Committed: Freedom from all fear of judgment or rejection may allow for complete emotional connection with another person. Reserved for communion with God, with a marriage partner or with the closest of friends, this highest level of communication requires complete openness and deep honesty. In these encounters deeply held beliefs and feelings are totally shared. Two lives are joined, two spirits are united and feelings are reciprocated. There is mutual understanding and empathy. This level of communication takes hard work. It is much more difficult to communicate heartfelt emotions than it is to communicate factual information. It also takes time: understanding does not come in casual conversation, but rather in extended interaction. This level of communication succeeds only with positive regard for one another.

  • Examples: “Perhaps I’m too sensitive, but it hurt me when you shared the details of my illness with your friend.” “I don’t know why it bothers me when you laugh at my mistakes, but it does.”
  • Biblical Example: Read John 11:32–35

Dishonesty has a way of creeping into all our relationships, but the ultimate price of any deception results in the disintegration of honest communication. Anyone who enters into a relationship thinking that it is good to keep the peace by disguising true feelings has developed patterns that destroy the bridge to deep and fulfilling communication.

“A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit.” (Proverbs 26:24)

[print_link] [email_link] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Communication: The Heart of the Matter. Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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