Archives For communication

Can You Hear Me Now?

October 5, 2015 — Leave a comment

communicationA few years ago a popular (although somewhat obnoxious) ad campaign featured a young man walking around a city continually asking that question over and over again. He was attempting to prove that his cell phone company had better coverage than others. Today we can’t imagine not having cell service wherever we may be.

But shift gears now and think about the various communications you have throughout the day. Communication with co-workers, with direct reports, with family, with friends, with clients and the list continues to grow it’s a wonder that we don’t encounter more “busy signals”.

It wasn’t so long ago that your phone actually gave you a busy signal if the person you were attempting to reach was unavailable. Now most of the time you can leave a voicemail message for them. Well with so many conversations going on every day how do you know you’re truly being heard?

What can you do today to help improve the odds that you’re actually getting through to those you are attempting to communicate with?

May we suggest this simple system to aid in your communication? FILA

Focus Intentionally and Listen Attentively.

With so much begging for your attention, including blog posts, you need to Focus Intentionally on those important conversations. You get to choose which are important to you. But when those conversations are taking place, they need your complete focus.

And once you’re focused in on what they are saying/texting/emailing/whatever, you need to Listen Attentively. Not Listen Distractedly, or Partially, or Somewhat, but truly do what you need to do to Listen Attentively.

Do these two things and your communication will improve.

And we all want to be better communicators, don’t we?

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Kid earsJust the other day when it became my turn at the local drive-through fast food joint, I gave my order to the speaker mounted on the square tower after the nice, young man inquired as to how he could help me. Unbeknownst to me, I had entered a warp in the  time-space continuum unlike any other. Here, in this rift in time, words spoken by both parties via electronic conveyances proceeded to immediately shift and twist like never before.

All I asked for was a soft drink of the citrus variety (orange to be exact) blended with crushed ice (so that it would become slush-like) and asked for a squirt or two of a vanilla  flavoring be added to the mix. So basically it was an “orange slush with a vanilla add-in”. That’s it! You’d have thought the communication system had translated my words into Klingon.”Yes, I’ll have the Kar-Doh, Bahk-Tew! please.”

I had to repeat parts of the order 3 or 4 times! And would you believe I did the no-fail American remedy for confronting a foreign language – I spoke slow and louder! Yes, I admit, I did it. Was the young man distracted? Possibly. Was he having a bad day? Again possibly. Were we speaking the same language? I believe so.

But he’s not the only one, bless his heart (that always makes it better!). Quite often I find myself falling for the same stuff – I don’t take the time to listen, because I’m already on to the next question – or what I believe will be your next question. It’s all about the anticipation, baby! I’m ready for whatever it is you’re getting ready to dish out.

And because I’m 2-3 questions down the line, ready for what you’re going to throw at me, I miss what you just said. Think about that a bit. Let it sink in. Led Zepp called it “Communication Breakdown.” And they said, “it’s always the same.”

I fully believe that in our fast-paced, onward and upward world we might be losing the art of listening – really listening – to be each other, to the One who made us, to be heard. Am I the only one that jumps ahead?

relationshipsI’ve been involved with marriage counseling, either pre-marriage or marriages in crisis, for more than 30 years now. My involvement began before I was even married! So I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve learned over the past 3 decades about relationships, marriage, family life, etc. each week.

One of the things I’ve learned is that communication is central to any and every relationship. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a married couple, an engaged couple, a parent and child, an employer and employee, friends, you & God, co-workers, neighbors, etc. – communication, good communication,  keeps the relationship moving forward. I don’t know how many couples have been in my office because they are struggling as a couple, that when I ask how the communication is between them they reply, “Not good.”

Allow me to suggest 3 ways to improve your communication in your relationship – no matter what relationship we’re discussing at the moment. OK?

1)    Sharing strengths and weaknesses. Carve out some time to get together to work on your relationship. Yes, relationships do require work! So make the time to get together and during this first meeting share what you believe are the top 3 strengths in the relationship. Then allow the other person to share what they see as the top 3 strengths of your relationship. Each must listen until they understand what the other is describing.

Next move on to the bottom 3 weaknesses in your relationship and then allow the other person to share their 3 weaknesses. You will be amazed at how just sharing those top 3 and worst 3 will open up communication. Then devise a plan to build on the strengths and improve the weaknesses.

2)    Daily dose of communication. Commit to one another to at least a daily dose of communication. And not just talk on “how’s the weather?” Talk at least daily about your relationship – what’s working, what’s not, how you can help.

Here’s a great way to start: give each other a daily compliment. You would be surprised how many people I talk to or counsel with who never hear an encouraging word for weeks, sometimes months at a time. That’s just wrong! So start a revolution and give each other compliments – every day! You will be amazed at how those simple compliments begin to work their way into other relationships as well.

3)    Create your dream list. This third exercise is a bit tougher to do, so take your time. The results are absolutely amazing, though. Here’s how it works. Separately think about the relationship, search within for the top 1-2 things that if done by the other person would speak volumes to you and take the relationship to a higher level.  Then after an agreed upon time frame, get together and take turns discussing your dream list. Because you have differing personalities, come from different backgrounds, etc. you just might be surprised at the simple things the other person is looking for in the relationship. What may seem as almost nothing to you, could be a big deal to them and vice versa.

Let me share an example from my own life of how this might play out. My wife and I did this exercise several years ago between Christmas and the New Year. And one thing I discovered is that she likes it, and really appreciates it, when I make her a cup of coffee in the morning. You see, she equates that simple mocha latte with me thinking about her the entire time I’m brewing her cup of coffee – and is truly thankful when I take the time to do that for her. See, it can be the simple things that speak volumes to another.

So there you have 3 tips for keeping the communication going in your relationships. Give them a try and let the other reads know how they are working for you.

Thanks for reading and come back again soon.

Too Busy to Hear

October 24, 2012 — Leave a comment

Over the past years I’ve done quite a bit of counseling with couples whose marriage is either ready to blow apart, has already blown apart, or something in between. I’ve also had the privilege to counsel with couples before their marriage as well. One thing stands out as a continual area that needs improvement or some adjusting – communication.

For years I’ve been telling people that one of the keys to a successful relationship – whether between spouses, friends, employee/employer/supervisor, teacher & student – communication is key for a solid relationship. For when the communication begins to fail, the relationship begins to fail as well.

I’ve also noticed that it’s very similar with the relationship we have with God. When the communication begins to fail the relationship becomes weak. So how do we communicate better with God? Well we begin with the basics – prayer and Bible study. Dallas Willard says, “through prayer we talk to God about what we’re working on together.” And through Bible study we get to hear what God has already said that can also apply to our lives today.

But just like any other relationship, we can allow ourselves to get so busy with everyday stuff that we really don’t listen nor do we take the time to talk to those we’re in relationships with. When that happens, we’re too busy. Relationship can begin to fail all around us until we open our eyes to what is happening.

So let me ask you: Where, when, and how has God tapped you on the shoulder—but you missed it because you were too busy or distracted to listen?

It can happen innocently enough throughout our day-to-day busy schedules.

What do you do to ensure that you’re neither too busy nor too distracted?

With apologies to Led Zeppelin

I can hear the younger generations – “Who?”

You might be familiar with the book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venusby John Gray. You might not. Anyway, he makes some great points about the differences between men and women. There are times when it seems as though we are from different planets and are NOT speaking the same language at all! But that doesn’t only happen between men and women.

Have you had a conversation with a teen lately? You might think they are from a different planet – so much of the tech world has invaded their speech. If you’re not familiar with the tech world, you may not understand what they are trying to get across to you.

And what about the difference between your organization and the people you serve? Do you ever have a communication breakdown? Why do you think that happens?

I propose that often the communication breakdown occurs when we in the organization forget that the people we serve may not be as familiar with our organization as we are. Over time we develop a language all our own, that only the “insiders” get and understand. And over that same time frame we distance ourselves from those we serve by not paying attention to the facat that we are no longer speaking the same language. The language we were both speaking when we began the relationship has somehow deteriorated to a point at which we wonder to ourselves, “Don’t they get it?”

Well frankly the answer is NO – they don’t get it and neither do we.

So here’s an idea – listen to the language being spoken around your organization. Would new clients know what you’re talking about? Or would they have to go to a specific language class just to catch up?

Are we speaking the insider language because it makes US feel special? What happened to helping to make the customer/client/people we serve feel special?

Check your language – you very well could be speaking Martian when those you serve are hearing in Venutian.

7 Ways to Teach for Transformation
Years ago, I heard Rick Warren say, “The deepest teaching is teaching that makes a difference in people’s day-to-day lives.” That simple statement challenged and encouraged me more than anything else I’ve ever read or learned about communication from the pulpit. From that moment on, I have worked hard to focus on life-application teaching in my weekly sermons. Jesus didn’t teach just to inform; He taught to transform.

I’ve also learned to evaluate my messages by asking these seven simple questions:

1.            Is it prophetic?

In other words, is it what God has said to His people? I take seriously the call I have to speak on His behalf. My words alone are empty. His Word is eternal. So I always ask: Is this what God has said and is saying to His Church?

2.            It is palatable?

I used to give people way more than they could chew on in one sitting. My mistake was thinking that many words make a better sermon. My goal now is to have them walk away with one or two important truths. Typically, the last step in my message writing process is to intentionally cut the message down by about 25% or more. For the record, no one has ever complained about my messages being too short!

3.            Is it precise?

We can’t cover everything about everything in every message. What we can do is make sure that what we say is clear, easy to follow, accurate and true. I wouldn’t want a doctor to get it mostly right when treating me—I want him to get it all right! As preachers, we need to endeavor to get it right.

4.            Is it presentable?

Whether your favorite approach is expository, topical, or narrative is not nearly as important as whether people can connect the dots in your message. Presentable doesn’t just mean neat and tidy; it means that people are able to understand what you’re saying in a way that doesn’t lose them in the process.

5.            Is it penetrating?

It is never my goal to tick people off, but the message should touch them at some deeper level and challenge them to grow. I don’t have to be controversial or harsh. I should, however, be bold enough to say something that cuts to the heart.

6.            Is it passionate?

If I don’t care, why should they? Passion can be expressed in many ways. I can demonstrate how I feel about the topic through my loud or quiet volume, through my pace and inflection, and even through laughter and tears. By the way, it’s okay to be passionate! Jesus was.

7.            Is it practical?

Have I answered the “So what?” question? What do they need to do or not do in practical response to this message? How can they apply this teaching in a way that will make a difference in their lives or the lives of others?

These seven questions are posted on a bulletin board in my office. On a weekly basis, I evaluate before and after my message how I did with each of these things. Trust me, it’s worth the time, and it’s worth the effort.

I started with a great quote by Warren; let me finish with one by D.L. Moody, “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives.”

As preachers, we have the incredible privilege of showing people how the Word of God can change their lives, their homes, their jobs, their neighborhoods and their world. So in Him, through Him, and for Him, go change lives this weekend!

Tree of Life

July 2, 2012 — Leave a comment
Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. http://bible.us/Prov15.4.NLT