I was going through a rough time in my relationships with others. Instead of “winning friends and influencing people,” as the title of the famous book by Dale Carnegie suggests, I was losing friends and putting people off. It was time to get some help. I picked up my prayer telephone and dialed Jeremiah 33:3—“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
Jesus picked up right away. After the usual affable greetings, our conversation went something like this. …
“I am having a big problem saying things I shouldn’t, and sometimes people take what I say the wrong way. Either way, things can get as sticky as fly paper! It is not how I want it to be. I want to get along with people well, even fabulously. Please help me out with some advice here. How can I improve my communications skills?”
“Is there something You want to show me?”
“Yes, a lot of somethings.”
I was puzzled, but desperate enough to try anything. “You mean I should look around the house? Okay, can do—but what exactly am I looking for?”
“Just keep your eyes and ears open. Like I promised, I will show you ‘great and mighty things.’”
As I started looking around the house—this might sound crazy—it was like Jesus was my unseen tour guide.
As I passed through the first doorway, He said, “Remember what doorways are for. They connect spaces. You need to be open and honest in your communication with others if you want to connect.”
In the kitchen He said, “A few items here have special significance for us today. This knife sharpener makes the blade clean and keen. Look how the knife now cuts this carrot with one smooth stroke. You might remember the proverb, ‘As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.’1 Good conversation keeps you sharp. What is the opposite of sharp? You got it … dull, or blunt. Those are two things you want to avoid in your interactions with others.
“These kitchen appliances hold another lesson. A lot of thought went into their creation. Their makers were also thoughtful enough to put together instruction manuals to help you get the most out of the appliances and to spare you unnecessary trouble. Good communication is a lot like that. You need to be clear in your explanations, and to carefully listen to others’ explanations. Otherwise there are bound to be misunderstandings.
“Since we are here, how about a cup of tea? Put the kettle on. It will take awhile for the water to boil, so you will need some patience. That, by the way, is another trait that’s needed for good communication. Every person is unique, so no two people see any situation from quite the same perspective. It often takes patience to try to see things as others see them and to come to an understanding.
“A cup of hot tea warms you up, like love does. When you feel loved, it makes you want to respond with love, doesn’t it? So if you only remember one thing, remember to communicate in such a way that the other person feels loved. You can do that in lots of ways—some as simple as showing others that you value their opinion or enjoy being with them, or through a smile or sincere compliment.
“Now we’re moving into the hallway. Be careful, because the floor has just been mopped. Going too fast on a slippery floor can lead to a nasty fall, and being too quick to speak, especially in slippery situations, can lead to disaster.
“Feeling comfortable? Too hot or cold? Just right? That’s good. Here on our left we have an interesting device called a thermostat. It keeps the house at just the right temperature by turning up or down the heat as needed. In your communications with others, you need to keep the person you’re talking to in the comfort zone by being sensitive to his or her needs.
“See that wall clock over there? That should remind you how important good timing is in communication. Give people time to wake up fully in the morning, or time to cool down if you know they’re upset. And of course one of the best ways to know if it’s an appropriate time to say something is to take time to listen before you speak.
“If you get real quiet, you can hear that clock tick. There are times when you need to silence your own thoughts in order to hear how others ‘tick.’ When you listen that carefully to others, you’ll find that it has a couple of other benefits. People will feel more at ease communicating with you, and they’ll be more likely to listen to you. Did you know that people listen five times faster than they speak? That’s why so many people have a problem with interrupting others mid-sentence.
“On to the living room. A good living room is not too sparse and not too cluttered. Comfy sofas, a few tasteful paintings and decorations, and ambient lighting all say, ‘Welcome. Relax.’ That’s how people should feel around you—welcome to communicate.”
Just then the doorbell rang. Time to try out some of those tips.