by Caitlin Meadows
Do you think of yourself as a communicator?
Maybe you’re an introvert who speaks as little as possible. Or maybe you’re a social butterfly who can strike up a conversation anywhere, anytime, with anyone. Chances are you’re somewhere in between the two – someone who appreciates keeping quiet but is able to hold a conversation when necessary.
No matter what mix of the above you identify with, you are a communicator. To put it more broadly…
We are all communicators
I took my first communications class during my second year of college. It was a required speech class. My peers ranged from those who nearly fainted when their name was called to those who were giddy to give each speech.
At the beginning of each class, the instructor had us stand up and proclaim in unison, “I am a GRRREAT communicator!” Looking around, it was easy to pick out which students believed this statement and which did not.
That little, seemingly silly exercise taught me something valuable about myself and others:
We are all communicators. The difference is our level of effectiveness as communicators. In other words, we can be poor, okay, good, or great at it.
Communication is a skill that requires intentionality to hone, which should be the goal because…
We all communicate something
Communication is much more than public speaking. One communicates using various symbols. Words (spoken or written), facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice are symbols of communication. Even emoticons via text messaging are symbols of communication. Every day we send messages to those around us using these symbols.
When we interpret another person’s message, we’re basing that interpretation on a combination of all of the different types of symbols listed above. We hear the other person’s words, evaluate his or her facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice, and determine the meaning. We do this countless times each day but the process is so quick that we don’t realize how much is involved.
Miscommunication occurs when one or more of our messages is misinterpreted because our symbols don’t match.
For example, imagine you had a very rough night’s rest. The next morning you had to attend a work meeting. During the meeting you attempt to show interest through eye contact and nodding, but you can’t help but yawn throughout because you’re so sleepy. Unfortunately, your supervisor misinterprets your yawning for disinterest and later scolds you for it. This is simply a miscommunication. After apologetically explaining to your supervisor that you were up the previous night with a sick child, the miscommunication is cleared.
To avoid miscommunication, the message sender must be aware of the symbols s/he is sending as well as clear about the message s/he is intending to communicate. This sort of awareness and intentionality includes understanding your location, surrounding circumstances, and the person/people with whom you are communicating. Likewise, to avoid miscommunication, the message receiver needs to ask for clarity before concluding that his/her interpretation is accurate. Which brings us to a point worth noting:
Communication takes at least two
Communication is not an individual sport. It requires a sender and a receiver of a message. Even when you’re the one receiving a message, you’re participating in communication. As the message is being sent, the sender is watching your reaction to see if you’re understanding. S/he is paying attention to your symbols, watching for eye contact, nodding, and words of agreement. How you listen communicates something to the sender. This is why…
You should want to be an effective communicator
Communication is the most practical quality of influential Christians.
We cannot avoid communication.
Whether at home with our families, at work with our colleagues, or at the grocery store with strangers, through the sending and receiving of messages through various symbols, we are communicating with those around us.
And by communicating, we are leading those with whom we communicate to an understanding of our message.
So the questions we must each ask ourselves are: 1.) What is the underlying message I wish to communicate through my life? and 2.) To what or to whom do I want my life to point others?
When the answer to both questions is the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, the result will be intentionally, actively leading our circles of influence to Him in our ordinary lives through ordinary communication that we cannot avoid.
After all, we are all communicators so why not be effective communicators for the sake of increasing the Kingdom of God?
Now, say it with me: I am a GRRREAT communicator!
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