Genuine Communication

In college we hit on these types of characteristics of good relational communication:

Warmth—conveying acceptance and courtesy: Warmth says, “You are important to me. You are valuable to me. I enjoy and respect you. I will not try to make you a carbon copy of myself, but rather I desire that you fully realize your own potential.”

Genuineness—having no hidden agendas: Genuineness says, “I am not trying to manipulate you, nor am I trying to bend you to my will. I want to make it safe for you to communicate with me and safe for you to trust that I will be truthful with you.”

Empathy—putting yourself in the other person’s circumstances, or walking in their shoes: Empathy says, “While I may not know exactly what you are going through, I’m trying to understand the emotions you feel and the challenges you face. I will seek to understand you, rather than trying to make you understand me.”

You can see how these characteristics will deepen one’s understand, communication and relationships.

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Personal Communication

We are having a seminar on Communication on September 12, so in preparation, I thought I’d post a few thoughts on the topic:

Many conversations can be compared to a table tennis match: two players stand on opposite ends of the table preparing to send the ball across the net in such a way that the other has little or no chance of a successful return. When I was a kid, the goal was to keep the ball going back and forth for as long as we could!

Good relational conversations can be better characterized as a game of “catch,” when both people attempt to deliver the ball to the other in such a way that it can be received and then successfully returned. The goal is not to win but to keep the ball going back and forth between them.

As I remember back to my counseling and guidance classes in college, I recall that satisfying relational communication is a process of verbal and nonverbal interaction with others in which thoughts and feelings are shared and understood. This means the receiver of the communication hears what is said and understands what is meant by the sender.

  • Verbal communication conveys thoughts and feelings with the spoken word, both choice of words and tone of voice.
  • Nonverbal communication expresses thoughts and feelings without words (facial expressions, body posture, hand gestures, direct or indirect eye contact, patient or impatient listening, gentle or rough touch, style of dress and clothing, apathetic or silent responses, platonic or romantic kisses, style of discipline, use of money or gifts).

The Hebrew word dabar, which means “word,” is used in the Old Testament to express the concept of communication. It implies speaking about a matter. The Bible, referred to as God’s Word, speaks to us about God and is one of the ways God speaks to us on matters pertaining to life. Old Testament language also speaks about the life-giving power of God’s Word.

“He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.” (Psalm 107:20)

In New Testament Greek, logos (word) is not just “the expression of a thought, concept or idea,” but refers also to the name of an object. In the first chapter of John, “the Word” (logos) signifies the Divine Expression, Christ.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

So, communication is much more than simply words. The big question for a believer in regard to communication is, “How can I communicate with others in a way that is most pleasing to God?”

The method of communication most pleasing to God is one that reflects Jesus Christ in all you say and do. That means allowing Jesus Christ to be Lord of your life … allowing Him to express His words and actions through you.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16–17)

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Successful Ministry Partnerships

Roy Smith of the Norfolk Area Baptist Association wrote this in the NABA newsletter for September 2011:

Doug M. Carter shares some key principles of partnership in his book, Raising More Than Money. Doug is the Senior Vice President of EQUIP, which was founded by John Maxwell. Doug’s book is for everyone who desires to give generously, joyfully, and strategically for maximum kingdom impact. These principles will enable any partnership (or association) to engage in world-impacting ministry.

  1. Partnerships are about multiplication: Partnerships multiply skills, energy, creativity, resources, and results.
  2. Partnerships must be based on trust: To establish and maintain trust, each partner must exhibit both competence and flawless character. Once trust exists, often a handshake will mark the launch of a partnership. Integrity must remain at the heart for any partnership to last.
  3. Partnerships are formed to accomplish a shared goal or mission: They should meet real needs in the lives of the people they serve.
  4. Partnerships are always in process: Building trust and establishing structures and guidelines for ministry together will not happen instantly.
  5. Partnerships are formed around the strengths of each partner: One partner complements the other, bringing needed expertise and/or resources to the table.
  6. Partnerships have conditions: Effective partnerships require long-term commitment, open and regular communication, generosity, flexibility, and a focus on the big picture. The solidity of a partnership is conditional upon a dedication to these issues.

Ministry partners must do five things exceedingly well:

  1. Consecrate – commit to God and one another.
  2. Concentrate – focus on the mission.
  3. Communicate – connect frequently. Silence, not distance, separates us.
  4. Cultivate – invest in the relationship and learn to serve each other.
  5. Celebrate – rejoice with one another, always sharing credit for the victory.

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Connectors Connect on Common Ground

John Maxwell, in his book on Connecting, moves from connecting principles to connecting practices. This is the first rule of communication, the practice above all others that opens the door to connection with others would be to look for common ground. The same is true when resolving conflict with your spouse, teaching a child, closing the deal, selling a product, or communicating with your class. This may sound harsh but it’s true: it is difficult to find common ground with others when the only person you focus on is yourself.

People of different temperaments cause people to think and act differently than ourselves. Maxwell writes about different representational systems based on our five senses. For example, observe several people walking down the beach. People will experience the event differently; one feels the sun on the skin, another sees the water and the vivid colors, another hears the sound of waves lapping and gulls screeching, another smells tanning oil or funnel cakes. If we learn to pinpoint how others experience the world (and strive to experience the same world they do) communication will become more effective.

Barriers to Finding Common Ground: many people are oblivious to others around them, especially to their feelings, thoughts and values.

  1. Assumption – I already know what others know, feel and want: all miscommunication is the result of differing assumptions. Remember that all generalizations are false (including this one); once we place someone neatly in a box, it becomes more difficult to think about that person as being anything different. Assumptions usually come out of our prejudice. We then miss clues that would otherwise find and reach common ground.
  2. Arrogance – I don’t need to know what others know, feel or want: arrogant people seldom meet others on common ground. They don’t make the effort, because they believe they don’t have to. I read that 90 percent of serious controversies arise from misunderstanding, one person not knowing the facts that the other person deems important, failing to see his point of view. Archie Bunker is an example: opinionated, narrow-minded, bigoted, expected everyone to come to him on his own terms. You can’t build a relationship with everybody in the room if you don’t care about anybody in the room.
  3. Indifference – I don’t care to know what others know, feel or want: they say they found a cure for apathy, but no one showed any interest in it. They might not feel superior to others but they also don’t go out of their way to learn about them either. Perhaps because it take a lot of work. Nelson Mandela once said that “If you talk in another man’s language he understands. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” Missionaries call this sharing the gospel in the other person’s heart language. Indifference in really a form of selfishness because we don’t take the time to discover what others know, feel or think.
  4. Control – I don’t want others to know what I know, feel or think: finding common ground is a two-way street. While you strive to discover things about your students, they need to discover things about you. Some leaders believe that by keeping people in the dark they have some measure of control. Maxwell says that secrecy spawns isolation, not success. Knowledge may be power, but leaders need collective power, which only comes through collective knowledge. Any time someone thinks information is being kept from, they feel like outsiders. I recently read about the “subordinate’s Lament” that says, “We the uninformed, working for the inaccessible, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful.”

Cultivating a Common Ground Mind-set: anyone can learn to connect better because connecting is a choice.

  1. Availability – I will choose to spend time with others: common ground must be discovered, and that takes time and requires intentionality.
  2. Listening – I will listen my way to common ground: remember the “hot and cold” child’s game? We must listen to the instructions in order to locate the object. Everyday people are seeking success and purpose but they don’t know where it is. We must pay attention to others. Listening requires giving up our favorite human pastime, involvement in ourselves and our own self-interest. Students are asking, “Why should I listen to you? What’s in it for me if I let you in?”
  3. Questions – I will be interested enough in others to ask questions: the greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions. Larry King once said that he was curious about everything, and his favorite question was, “Why?” There are a couple of tricks that make conversations easier:
    1. FORM: Family, Occupation, Recreation, Message.
    2. FIRE: Family and Friends, Interests, Religious background, Exploratory questions (from CWT).
  4. Thoughtfulness – I will think of others and look for ways to thank them: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much your care. Simple acts of kindness go a long way.
  5. Openness – I will let people into my life: even the word communication comes from the Latin meaning “common.” Connection requires both parties to engage and be open.
  6. Likability – I will care about people: people like people who like them. If they don’t like you, they won’t listen to you or attend your class. Think about your own favorite teachers, I bet they were one that you liked.
  7. Humility – I will think of myself less so I can think of others more: humility is knowing and using your strength for the benefit of others, on behalf of a higher purpose. We must look out for the good of others. A humble leader can bring out the best in people. Arrogance plays up one’s strength to receive praise while humility raises up others so they can be praised. A great way to connect with others is to talk about your own flops, failures and fumbles. Some of the best ideas come out of the worst blunders. If you want to connect, don’t just talk about your successes, but also your failures. Humility comes from admitting your weaknesses, being patient with other’s weaknesses, being open to correction and pointing the spotlight on others.
  8. Adaptability – I will move from my world to theirs: sharing a meal can be a great way to do this; getting out of the comfort zone, sharing favorite food and visiting in someone’s home.

Connectors Go First:

  1. Ask, “Do I feel what you feel?” before asking, “Do you feel what I feel?” We must take people on a journey, and we cannot take them unless we start where they are. Connecting begins with feelings. If you connect on an emotional level it is easier to connect on other levels.
  2. Ask, “Do I see what you see?” before asking, “Do you see what I see?” It is not a matter of casting a vision well enough so others can see it, hoping they will then move forward. This causes us to want others to see things my way. Worse, we will assume that people already see things from our perspective. I read about a older father who looked back to when he was younger, and said he would work harder on seeing things through my children’s eyes. We often miss teaching moments because we want our kids to see things the way we see them.
  3. Ask, “Do I know what you know?” before asking, “Do you know what I know?” After years of dealing with marriage counseling, John Maxwell writes that couples’ greatest desire is to express their point of view from their perspective. They want to get the point across. Only after someone knows what the other person knows can you begin to understand how to connect.
  4. Ask, “Do I know what you want?” before asking, “Do you know what I want?” Attendance at church typically changes in cycles; winter is up, summer is down. Can we keep attendance up by giving people what they want, rather than what we want? This requires that we go beyond head knowledge to the heart. Ask of your people:
    1. What do you dream about?
    2. What do you sing about?
    3. What are you crazy about?

We are not supposed to just transmit massive chunks of information onto people; let’s invest in them.  Communication is a journey.

Summary:
Connecting Practice: Connectors Connect on Common Ground.
Key Concept: Know the reasons you and your students want to communicate and build a bridge between those reasons.

Practical Steps:

  1. You must know your reason, know your other person’s reason and find a way to connect the two.
  2. You build a bridge by asking questions, gaining feedback, asking more questions, telling stories, share emotions, and offer lessons learned.
  3. In a group you can ask, “What brought us together?” or “What goals do we have in common?”
  4. In class: validate their feelings, share that you perhaps feel the same way, tell them what you found that helped you, offer to help them find help in their lives.

Connecting is More Skill Than Talent

John Maxwell writes about several things about people whom he considers to be great communicators. He was attending a conference and evaluated those who connected and those who did not:

The Non-Connectors:

  1. First: a politician who spoke in monotone, droned on and on, devoid of passion or conviction.
  2. Second: a another politician who spoke 50 minutes and said absolutely nothing.
  3. Third: A journalist who spoke down to the audience, feeling superior, making people feel like he knew something the audience did not.
  4. Fourth: a business book author who spoke with an angry demeanor, with body language, facial expressions and negative attitude.

The Connectors:

  1. Mark Russell: a DC insider with a lot of humor.
  2. Mario Cuomo: eclectic, others could feel what he felt, he moved the audience.
  3. C Everett Koop: a master of illustration, with logical arguments.
  4. Elizabeth Dole: she made everyone feel like they were friends, possessing an easy confidence.
  5. Steve Forbes: he made everything he talked about sound new.
  6. Colin Powell: put everyone at ease, gave a sense of security, had a confident demeanor that instilled confidence in others, he gave hope.

What Makes People Listen? We must learn to connect with others by making the most of whatever skills and experience we have.

  1. Relationships – who you know: Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil made it big because of who they know (Oprah). The audience had confidence in her so they put confidence in the doctors. They possessed borrowed confidence.
  2. Insight – what you know: most people want to improve their situation in life. When they find someone who can communicate something of value to them, they will usually listen. If you have an area of expertise and generously share it with others, you give people reason to respect you and develop a sense of community with you.
  3. Success – what you have done: many people will come to hear a speaker for no other reason than because of what they have done in the past. America is a success culture and people will seek out others who can help them along the way.
  4. Ability – what you can do: those who perform at a high level will gain instant credibility with others. People admire them and want to be like them. Many times they want advice on topics that have nothing to do with their area of expertise. Michael Jordan made more money with endorsements than he did playing basketball.
  5. Sacrifice – how you have lived: People followed Mother Teresa because she had street cred, she lived out what she preached. If you have made sacrifices, suffered tragedy or overcome painful obstacles, many people will relate to you.

The Art of Connecting:

  1. Possess Great Confidence: if you don’t teach with confidence, your students will remain unconvinced.
  2. Exhibit Authenticity: to connect with people you must be yourself, at your best; walking with integrity.
  3. Prepare Thoroughly: you must be familiar with your topic and lesson. A great connector cannot simply wing it.
  4. Utilize humor: rare is the communicator who is able to connect with people without using humor. Use stories from your past, or read, or hear.
  5. Focus on Others: greet all those who come to your class, find out information about them, help them to talk by talking about the subject they know best, themselves.
  6. Master Speaking and Writing: practice communicating by actually talking to people. Write notes and e-mail to your class, sharing ideas, teaching, encouragement, prayer requests.

Summary:
Connecting Principle: Connecting is more skill than natural talent.
Key Concept: the skills you learn to connect at one level can be used to start connecting at the next level.

Practical Steps:

  1. Have an interest in other people; ask each person questions.
  2. Place value on that person; and point out their value to others in the group.
  3. Put their interests above your own; that sounds biblical.
  4. Express gratitude for that person; in front of other people as well.