With trust as the foundation, communication is enhanced by practicing communication skills. Here are nine skills that promote effective communication.
Have a clear purpose.
Effective communication starts with a clear purpose for the communication. Before you can communicate effectively, you must know what you want to communicate. Communication is more than just talking. If you do not really understand what you are trying to say, you will not be able to communicate it to others. The more important your communication, the more carefully you should think through and plan what you will say.
Speak with integrity.
When you provide a model of open communication by sharing your own ideas and feelings, you will communicate trust to your listener. People will usually be only as open as they sense you are being with them. Allow yourself to express the emotions you feel about the message you are communicating.
When strong, straight words are needed, say them. But say them graciously (Ephesians 4:15). Remember, the goal is not to “get it off your chest” but to say what is in the best interest of the other person, even if it is hard to do so.
Practice the art of active listening. This is the process of becoming thoroughly attentive to the speaker’s words and thoughtfully interacting with him in ways that aid your understanding of his message. Active listening is an expression of your value for the person. It means that you unselfishly put your own interests on hold for a time and concentrate on the speaker’s needs and words.
Some of the important elements of active listening are the following:
- Stop Talking.
- Communicate attentiveness by looking directly at the person.
- Draw out the other person with questions or comments that invite him to explain further.
- Respond with acceptance and encouragement of the other person’s emotions.
Recognize different levels of communication. Not all communication has to be deep. There is value in surface communications as a means of opening up the opportunity for deeper relationship. Relationships progress through various levels with an appropriate depth of communication at each level. However, in order to minister to people, church leaders are often required to communicate at a personal depth far beyond the level of relationship they have developed with the listener. When a person is relating to you at a deep level, understand and expect that your words will be very powerful and choose them accordingly.
Plan your communication. Try to be as explicitly and clear as possible. Choose your words and actions carefully to convey what you want to communicate. Seek to be creative and personal in your communication. Consider how the other person thinks. To what approaches does he respond best?
Be tactful. Think ahead about how the other person will respond. What are his needs, stresses, hopes, fears? Think about how you would respond if you were in his place. Phrase your communication in ways that will be sensitive to your listener.
Communicate more than you think you need to.
Be as redundant as possible. Let me repeat: Be repetitive, recurrent, habitual, and persistent. It is better to err on the side of too much communication than too little. A church thrives on frequent communication.
Develop a feedback system.
Feedback is a way of gaining help to know whether the message the listener received from you is the same message that you intended to communicate. In other words, are you communicating what you think you are communicating? Invite others to tell you how they are experiencing you and what they understand from your communication.
The best feedback is specific, descriptive, and focuses on behaviors that can be changed. When you receive such feedback, be careful not to react defensively. If you do, people will be afraid to give you honest feedback. And honest feedback is the only type worth having.
Develop a communication plan for your church or ministry.
The benefit of a communication plan is that it helps avoid slip-ups in communication. Develop the plan to provide regular, timely information to those who should be informed. It will certainly help avoid the embarrassment and loss of support that often comes when some important person or group was left uninformed.
About the Contributors
Dr. Andrew B. Seidel served as executive director of the Hendricks Center at Dallas Seminary for fifteen years, which provides leadership training and development for seminary students as well as ministry and business leaders. A graduate of West Point and a colonel in the U.S. Army, Dr. Seidel was senior pastor at Grace Bible Church in College Station, Texas, for fourteen years. He left the pastorate to provide leadership training for pastors on the mission field in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Today he continues to work in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia with Entrust (formerly BEE International). The author of Charting a Bold Course; Training Leaders for 21st Century Ministry, Dr. Seidel and his wife Gail Norris Seidel have been married for more than fifty years and have two married children and six grandchildren.