Many people believe the main desire of the human soul is to be loved. I can agree with that sentiment, but before that, I believe there is something else. To be known? Yes, but more specifically to be understood.
Have you ever had a time when you were trying to communicate something and words just failed? You just couldn’t get your point across. Isn’t it maddening? I think we all want to be understood and if that is ultimately our goal, then we are all in the communication business. We’re trying to help people to see things our way. We’re trying to communicate something that we feel is urgent or essential and the more we care about the recipient, the more urgent the need becomes.
How can you make yourself understood? Well there are a couple things to keep in mind.
Language. Now I’m not just talking about whether you speak English, or Spanish, or Mandarin, or whatever. I’m also talking about those subtle nuances that help our words to connect. My wife will often tell me after I speak that she felt I used a slang or a figure of speech that some of the people didn’t understand. Humor doesn’t always translate and of course there are things that just simply should not be said. The audience understood you perfectly but they were offended or appalled and so they tuned you out. Also, and this is a huge one, don’t try to impress people with how smart you are. If you talk over people’s heads, using words that they will not understand, it may make you feel intellectually superior (you might even be intellectually superior) but when it comes to being understood, you failed. The dirty little secret of communication is it’s not about you. The story may be, but the object of communication is ALWAYS the audience.
Listening. One of the best ways to communicate is to start by shutting up. Listen to what the other person is saying, (because it’s about them, remember?) then when you have some understanding of where they are coming from, then speak. Otherwise you run the risk of answering questions they’re not asking. Again this may satisfy your ego, but it will do precious little to help you be understood. If communication is always about them (and it is) then what’s in it for them is paramount to being understood. The best teachers understood this. It took years to understand why I ever had to learn algebra.
Love. The old adage rings true. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. While this is essential in all modes of communication, it is essential in communication of God’s message. The admonition to speak the truth in love comes to mind. Without love we come across like a bunch of holier-than-thou know-it-alls and you would never have that many hyphens in your title. Remember the purpose of communication is to be understood and in order to be understood, you have to be heard, and in order to be heard the other party (the one it’s all about) had to be listening. Turn them off and they’ll do the same to you.
Communication is critical, urgent and always about the recipient. Keep that in mind.