A Christian's Guide to Effective Communication
Sticks and stones may not break our bones, but harsh, critical words can damage our self-esteem and discourage our spirit. Nasty words can hurt others and damage their relationships.
These days, rudeness when communicating has become commonplace. Our society has become so self-centered that people will use words to chew out others for perceived wrongs at the drop of a hat. People are thin-skinned and are easily offended.
If we accidentally cut someone off in traffic, unintentionally cut into a line, or grab an item someone else wants at a sale, we can expect people might yell, swear, or rage at us.
Reality TV shows adults blowing up over trivial matters and bawling out other people for what appears to be the silliest reasons. While the human part of us is amused at this spectacle, another part is dismayed at the harm this can cause such as broken relationships, hurt feelings, anger, and the heartbreak of petty revenge.
Our tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). Some victims who are verbally bullied are beaten down and may even feel driven to commit suicide. Words spoken in anger can even lead to physical violence.
There are many benefits to using our tongues wisely. The rights words in a difficult situation are like choice silver (Proverbs 10:20), and a soothing tongue is a tree of life (Proverbs 15:4). Sometimes, it is best to say nothing at all.
How to use our words effectively and deal with verbal abuse
“If we want to focus our Christian life on one thing, if you and I want to get our act together, if I want to bring my whole spiritual life in control, I should work on… the tongue.”
Assure people that they are heard
People who want to shove their opinions down our throats are extremely annoying, but will quiet down if we can assure them that we are listening to them. In conversation, people generally want to assured that they have been heard.
Saying little or nothing
There are times when talking to someone just makes a bad situation worse (Proverbs 10:19). For example, someone may be deliberately trying to stir up strife, or attempting to browbeat us so that we fall in line with their agenda.
In this case, we can diffuse the situation by gently assuring them in a non-committal manner that we have listened to what they have had to say. We can also thank them for their input without comment. Sometimes saying little or nothing in some situations is wise (Proverbs 10:19, Proverbs 29:11, Ecclesiastes 3:7) and the best course to peace.
Think before you speak
We can give a soft answer when angry people verbally attack us to de-escalate the situation (Proverbs 15:1). When we guard our mouths during a confrontation, we protect ourselves from something bad happening (Proverbs 21:23) such as saying something that damages another person’s self-esteem or physicially acting out our anger.
People may look religious on the outside, but if they don’t curb their tongues, their faith is in vain (James 1:26). When we restrain our tongues, we show that we have knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 17:27). Our right answer at the right time is beneficial and a great thing (Proverbs 15:23).
Destructive communication types
- People who gossip and busybodies with nothing better to do snoop, blab our secrets, and wreak havoc in our lives (Proverbs 20:19)
- Foolish people recklessly talk without thinking - their words often piercing like swords (Proverbs 12:18)
- People flatter but are deceitful (1 Peter 3:10)
- Some people are liars (Ephesians 4:25)
- Some people are proud and are always looking for a verbal fight (1 Timothy 6:4)
- Others grumble and complain – something that we need to avoid if we are to become pure and blameless in our Christian walk (Philippians 2:14-15)
Avoid critical people when possible
The bible calls raging, critical words a destructive fire that defiles us, and an unruly evil full of poison (James 3:5-8). It takes a small spark to start a raging forest fire. Evil people reveal themselves and their true intentions through the ugly words that they speak (Luke 6:45).
Avoid fools and gossips
An old saying says that "loose lips sink ships." Foolish people say whatever comes to mind without any regard for anyone's feelings and any possible repercussions. Gossips love to spread the latest with anyone who will listen, causing all kinds of trouble. Their words can hurt others, destroy reputations, spill secrets, and ruin relationships.
We should avoid being around people who are criticizing others or foolishing blabbing without thought so that we do not get caught up in their communication style. If they are close to us like a family member or co-worker, we need to pray that we will not get involved in their verbal barrages.
Using our words correctly
There are times we need to confront others about their destructive communication. As Christians, we should take a stand when people are trying to entice us to gossip, criticize others, violate our Christian principles or break the law. Our words are supposed to build up and encourage other people in a humble way and not express bad things about them (Ephesians 4:29, Titus 3:2).
Christians should believe in people and think well of them, giving them the benefit of the doubt unless their experiences teach them otherwise.
Jesus says that we will be held accountable for every careless word that we speak (Matthew 12:36-37). Let’s be diligent in keeping our tongues under control, and enjoy the good things that result from healthy communication (Proverbs 4:23, Colossians 3:8).
© 2013 Carola Finch