80% of problems be it the professional front or personal front, can be solved by effective communication. I’ve heard this quote several times over the past couple of years. I’m sure many of you have a running list of times where open and honest communication would’ve saved a relationship, fixed a problem, or generally made life more enjoyable with someone.
I’m finishing up my second semester as a Professor at the University of North Florida. The class, Issues in Public Management has been fantastic. I’m concluding the semester with a set of lectures on administrative decentralization, federalism, and the various governance issues that come up when political power is decentralized and divided between central and smaller regional governments.
Hurricane Katrina has been our case study during these lectures. People wonder why so many people died in this storm (over 1800) when residents knew about it days in advance. Why did it take nearly five days for a full evacuation and recovery effort to begin? Many elderly and sick New Orleanians died while waiting to be evacuated. The emergency response to Hurricane Katrina was horrific. One of the main reasons our government failed during that natural disaster is because of poor communication between the state and local authorities and the federal government.
Proper communication is vital to healthy relationships, effective job performance, and is a skill that can be learned. Proper communication helps us to better understand a friend, co-worker, or neighbor by allowing us to exchange ideas and information in an effective way. It enables to look at situations differently since we’re able to better disseminate information. It gives us the ability to resolve differences, build trust and respect, and create environments that are safe and where honor can flourish.
Here are six essentials to effective communication:
Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.
Being honest in your communication is essential to creating trust. It breaks down barriers when you see someone being vulnerable and transparent. We don’t communicate effectively because of fear; we don’t open up out of trepidation of rejection or apprehension from getting hurt. When you’re transparent and vulnerable you go a long way to alleviate the concerns and fears of that other person you’re communicating with.
It’s easy to neglect communication. We can fail to prioritize the importance of it in our marriages, job, etc. You have to make a sincere effort to communicate. Be diligent in your approach. Be intentional in your conversation. Ask questions. If you want to cultivate a healthy relationship you must be conscientious in dialogue.
Be Willing to Yield
Arrogance breeds dogmatism. It is so important to stand up for what you believe in. We must be a people of deep conviction, but don’t be so dogmatic in your position that you can never see or seek to understand a contrasting opinion. My Dad used to teach me the importance of taking “a 30,000 foot fly over” an argument or situation. He used to say how important it was to understand the opposite side of the argument. When we are overly dogmatic in the defense of our position we tend to cause the defensive walls to go up in the other person. Once those walls are up it can be quite difficult to really hear the others point of view.
Be a Great Listener
Very imperative and yet I find it increasingly difficult to do. Especially in my marriage. How many times have I been on the CNN app, assiduously checking to see the latest updates on the political destabilization of Eastern Ukraine while Tracy is talking to me about her recent trip to Costco. I pretend to listen, but I’m not fully present in our conversation. I have an abnormal distaste for Costco. I don’t like the excessive use of fluorescent lights in that store. I get uneasy every time I walk into that dreadful place with thousands of people aimlessly milling about trying to catch the latest cost saving deal. However, Tracy loves Costco. She loves how she can get an 8 pack of Smart Waters for an inordinately cheap price. Costco is important to her and when I really listen to her expensive escapades to that evil conglomerate I’m basically saying, “I place my interests in a position secondary to yours.”
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
Use Pleasant Words
Aaron Austin complimented me in a way I’ll never forget several months ago. He quoted Proverbs 16:24, Kind words are like honey-sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. He said that I have a unique gift of sounding pleasant when I communicate and that is something that is so important in effective communication. Pleasant words are vital in defusing a threatening or tense environment, breaking down defensive walls, and opening up channels of forthright communication. Be kind in what you say. Watch your tone and inflection when you communicate to others. Try your best to make your first response positive.
Practice What You Preach
Hypocrisy short circuits your efforts to communicate effectively. No one trusts a hypocrite. Make sure your actions are conforming to what you say. Actions give meaning to words. Work hard to walk in great integrity- it will give your words great power because you truly mean what you say.
I’m Harold Dorrell Briscoe. Thanks for reading.