In my dreams, I’m winsome, witty, and engaging.
In my dreams, I’m the kind of person you’d want to sit and talk with for hours. And of course, I’m also an excellent listener who is emotionally supportive offering just the right balance of encouragement with wise advice.
But remember, I said, “in my dreams.”
In reality, all I can say is . . . I fall short of my dreams every day. I talk too much and listen to little. I struggle to let others finish their thoughts before jumping in. I tell myself I’m an active listener but in reality, I’m a talker!
This hit home the other day while I was on a Zoom call with some blogger friends. I told myself as I joined the call that I was going to listen more this time. But after the call was over, one of the gals sent us screenshots of our cute faces and in each one, the other gals were smiling and my mouth was moving.
I decided I needed a quick refresher course on how to be a better communicator/listener. Because…
Conversations. Love them or hate them they’re an essential part of life.
All day every day, you and I are leaving little pieces of ourselves behind through the verbal exchanges we have with family, friends, coworkers, and yes, even strangers.
And when we leave people feeling unheard, misunderstood, and less than valued … well, I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before they simply stop wanting to talk with us at all.
So, just in case you need a helpful reminder too, here are…
10 Ways to Be a Better Communicator and Bless Your Relationships
1. Ask Open-ended Questions.
One of my favorite memories is of an evening I spent with a group of friends. We were just getting to know each other when Carmen asked, “I want to know more about you and why you write. What’s your testimony?”
Open-ended questions say … “I want to know you, not just about you … I want to know who you are and what makes you tick!”
Some of my favorite conversation starters are…
- How did you meet your best friend or your spouse?
- What’s your favorite way to spend time?
- If you could travel anywhere in the world and money was no object, where would you go?
- What’s one thing you wish more people knew about you?
- Tell me 3 things about your day.
Asking questions people want to answer is important, but then it is equally important to…
2. Take a Genuine Interest in their Answers.
Put down your phone, face the person, and make eye contact. Listen attentively with kindness and compassion. And be open-minded to hearing beliefs and opinions that differ from yours.
I love this quote from Stephen Covey…
“When you really listen to another person from their point of view and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen.”
3. Be Patient – Don’t Interrupt.
This one is so hard for me!
When I’m engaged in a good conversation I get excited and in my enthusiasm, I speak too quickly. I’m always trying to remember the importance of listening to understand rather than listening to reply.
“Recent research has indicated that the average individual listens for only seventeen seconds before interrupting and interjecting his own ideas.” ~Gary Chapman
Ooh, ouch! It looks like I have lots of company when it comes to interrupting. Maybe I’m not the only one who needs to work on being a better communicator.
4. Relax – Be Yourself
God created you for this time and place. He created you for your relationships . . . just the way you are.
There is something in you that is important to and for each of the people in your life. Do your best to be your best … but be yourself. Worry less about what someone thinks about you, by focusing your attention on them.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.Ephesians 2:10
5. Be Willing to Share Your Story – Be a Little Vulnerable
You don’t have to tell every little detail of your life but share your story. God is able to use your story to touch lives Something special happens when we open up and realize we may be more alike than we realized. Your willingness to share the time God helped you through a difficult or pulled you out of a “pit” may be just the thing your friend needs to hear today.
“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .” ~C.S.Lewis
7. Listen to Yourself
Think about the tone of your voice. Being a better communicator means agreeing enthusiastically and disagreeing calmly and quietly. Avoid sarcasm and exaggeration. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.Colossians 4:6
8. Control Your Emotions
Although it’s true, you can’t control your feelings, it is equally true that you can control how you act on those feelings if you choose to. Stay open and sensitive to the other person’s feelings, but not too easily hurt yourself.
Strive to be unoffensive and un-offendable.
A person with good sense is patient, and it is to his credit that he overlooks an offense.Proverbs 19:11
“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” ~ Dorothy Nevill
9. Apologize When Necessary
I make conversation mistakes often. I don’t listen to others the way I want to, I’m easily distracted, and I speak way too quickly.
I’ve also learned to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me.”
“Real apologies start in the heart, express themselves through words, and culminate in actions.” ~Anonymous
I will continue to work on the “culminating in actions” part by always striving with God’s help to do better in the future.
10. Always Choose Love
We’re all sinners who have said and done things we shouldn’t.
So, it’s important for us to be slow to judge or criticize because we are more likely to point people to the truth of God’s love with a kind example and a caring heart than we are through words that communicate harsh correction and criticism.
When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you.Ephesians 4:29
I am so thankful God allows us to connect with each other through conversation. I especially love that now through screen and keyboard we can interact with people all over the world.
Which means that beyond face to face conversations … our online chats and posted comments are key to communicating and getting to know one another.
So, I want to leave you with one more thought…
May we be as careful with our on-line conversations as we are when sitting with someone across the table? Because as followers of Jesus … what we say in person or put out there on-line influences what others think of Him.
We can’t control all the crazy dialogue that’s out there but we can control how we participate.
Do not do wrong to repay a wrong, and do not insult to repay an insult. But repay with a blessing, because you yourselves were called to do this so that you might receive a blessing.1 Peter 3:9
And that just may lead to the blessing of a new or restored friendship.
One of the ways I’m trying to do better is by asking myself the following before I speak…
Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
Is it helpful?
I know I can do better.
Maybe you are working on doing better too.
There is good news!
Praise God! As long as we’re breathing, it’s not too late. You and I can become better communicators and bless our relationships.
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