The Big Deal about Communication
A word about the importance of communication is in order here. In the book of James, we read that a person who communicates carelessly (i.e., “does not bridle his tongue”) has a worthless religion (James 1:26). It’s so serious that James levels the charge of having a worthless religion. Later in his letter, James explains that our communication, referred to by the “tongue” metonymy, carries the potential of a spark in a tinder-dry forest — inflammatory. It is like the rudder of a ship — powerful. It is like a microbe that can infiltrate and devastate the entire body. It is like the untamable ferocity of a wild animal. It is like a world of unrighteousness. (See James 3:1-12)
Five Laws of Communication
This is our communication — a really, really big deal. With that in mind, it is vitally important to guard our communication from the devastating affects it can have, and put some principles in place to guide us as we communicate every day. Here are five laws of communication.
- Communicate often. You are saying communicating something when you don’t communicate with people, especially those people with whom you are expected to maintain a relationship. Frequent communication is the bond that brings two human beings together and keeps them there. This principle holds true in all relationships. A husband and wife should communicate often to maintain a close relationship. A manager must communicate often with his employees if they are to have a beneficial work relationship.
- Communicate openly. There is a problem when people spill too much of their guts in their communication. However, even worse problems arise when people are vague, guarded, and secretive in their communication. Failure to communicate openly breeds mistrust, while openness cultivates a trusting relationship. You’ve probably observed this in friendship. You cannot be a close friend with someone with whom you don’t open up. In your communication, be prudent, but be open.
- Communicate authentically. Drop the pretense when you communicate. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t. When you veil your true self behind the guise of inauthentic communication, you are, in effect, lying. True relationships thrive when people can be authentic in their communication. Authentic communication begins with you as the leader.
- Communicate truthfully. Truth should characterize every facet of your communication. Sadly, this is the one area of communication in which we are prone to stray. Lies, half-truths, partial truths, exaggeration, and withholding information are not an option for Christians. There are no circumstances in which it is absolutely necessary to lie. Just don’t do it. Truthfulness is the crown jewel of effective communication.
- Communicate in love. Secular communication books aren’t going to include this on their list. Love is the virtue that must characterize Christians (John 13). True Christian love should saturate every act, every word, every attitude, and every thought. Your goal as a leader is to be Christlike, which includes intense life-giving love. Your goal as a leader is to be a servant, which is an act of humble love. Your goal as a leader is to model the kind of love that Christians should have. All of this highlights the importance of loving speech. Love others, and your words will follow. If truthfulness is the crown jewel of effective communication, than love is the critical context.
Communication isn’t easy. There is a whole industry of communication consultants, entire schools for training, and libraries full of books to tell you how to do it right, or how to do it better. Communication is important. It behoves us to come back to the basics in order to bring our communication in line with a few simple, biblical guidelines.