But I TOLD you all about it, I explained it in detail! How can you not remember?
Have you ever said this? You recall spelling out all the details, but somehow the message never connected. We all have stories of misunderstandings. Sometimes they're hilarious, and sometimes they're painful.
I have had to learn repeatedly that I should never tell my spouse things in the morning. I am evidently a slower learner! Before the morning cup of coffee, the ability to recall a conversation is thin, even when when asked to repeat it back. I eventually learned to leave important conversations for later in the day or to leave a note for communication that needs to happen in the morning.
Isn’t communication a simple process? The speaker speaks and the listener listens, and everyone understands each other, right? Evidently not!
So why is communication so complicated? How is it that we can hear things so differently? Consider how both the speaker and the listener and the surrounding environment can create challenges that derail effective communication.
Some of our communication breakdown has to do with the speaker.
Some of our communication breakdown has to do with our environment. Choose a healthy environment for having important conversations.
There may be external blocks to communication. For some the hearing aide battery strength limits the communication. Maybe there's lots of peripheral noise and distractions. The TV is on, the kids are yelling, and your spouse is in the other room. Trying to yell something isn't going to be effective.
Maybe there's emotional noise. Maybe your teen just slammed a door and your spouse came home from an angry boss. Maybe you've got company in the next room you wish would go home. The mental focus to speak and listen well isn't there. You may need to reduce distractions with some privacy and gain direct and complete attention before you can fully connect.
Some of our communication breakdown has to do with the listener. Many things within us distract us from truly hearing one another. We all have filters that we listen through before the message can even reach us for processing.
When we consider all of our internal and external distractions it is a wonder that we can communicate at all! Awareness of these obstacles will help us to work through the challenges. An attentive listener can tune in to recognize their own emotional filters and receive what is being said as information to be processed. Taking the time to process before responding allows the listener time to evaluate the information in light of their filters so they can respond rather than react.
Naming the emotion that the speaker is using can go a long way in helping the speaker feel heard. A listener who can name the emotion and respond with empathy is bearing another's emotional burdens as God has called us to do (Galatians 6:2).
Communication may be challenging, but God's grace is sufficient for us. Let us practice God's desire that "... every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20). Let us tune our ears to one another and let the love of Jesus flow through our conversations.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster