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What Did You Say?

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That is not what I said.

How often do you find yourself being served the words, “That is not what I said”?

Placing my iPhone on the kitchen counter, I chuckled. It just happened again! "That is not what I said."

Our delicate art of communication requires skill. Focus, concentration, and effort, along with expertise, ingenuity, and imagination need to coalesce like brush strokes on a canvas in the exchange of information. Three recent situations remind me of this reality.

Here they are:

In giving the details of my scheduled hand surgery, a family member groaned upon hearing a description of the anticipated 23 stitches and the repercussions for my busy life. (What I said was 2 to 3 stitches, with quite a different recovery story!)

In hearing of our friends’ European travels, I smiled and envisioned their sublime pleasure moving serenely down the Danube on a Viking Cruise ship. (What I said was biking trip—not Viking trip—in Europe.)

My colleague took his elderly father to be fitted for a hearing aid and learned, to his shock, that he, too, needed to address his hearing issues. (What I said was, “You both need hearing devices.”)

Thankfully, these situations were benign, and each contained a thread of humor. But not all life grants tolerance. You and I have opportunity to bring clarity to the canvas of communication when we mindfully apply a few intentional guidelines:

Guideline #1

Listen not only to what is said, but learn to look for what is meant. You are hearing words which only represent the tip of the iceberg. What actually is beneath the surface and is promoting the expression of content?

Guideline #2  

Pay attention to tone and body language.“That’s ok with me,” might not really be ok.

Guideline #3

Pray silently while you listen; this is one situation in life where multitasking proves profitable. 

Guideline #4

Mentally place yourself in the other person’s position and ask the Holy Spirit to give you supernatural insight in communication.

Guideline #5

Hurry harms good communication. Today’s life pace fights against clear communication. (Do you agree?) Since we often find ourselves tossing words on the fly, let us at least be cognizant of the fact that haste is not helpful.

Guideline #6

Listen to learn, yes, but most of all…listen to love.


Living With Eternal Intentionality

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19b)”

What recent communication snafu reminds you of your need to become a better listener?