Regardless the circumstance, the importance and power of good communication cannot be understated. The impact of either good or bad, clear or muddled, distinct or vague communication is powerful. Think of a time recently when something you said or did was misunderstood by another person; or consider the last time you misunderstood what was communicated to you. How’d that go for you? What were the consequences?
I’m sharing with you part of a talk I gave last night at our monthly TitusTwo meeting. As I go along through the years, I’m so grateful for these opportunities to share (and learn!!!) as the Lord gives me different messages stemming from quiet times, things I’m going through, or from passages I’m reading in the Scriptures.
Colossians 4 is loaded with messages and benefits — especially regarding the many facets of communication. It begins with the Apostle Paul communicating proper ways of treating others, matters concerning prayer, walking in wisdom, redeeming the time. Each verse contains a message, or two, I think. But what really caught my attention, in the section of verses I was reading, is verse 6: “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer every man.”
Effective communication is the lifeblood of relationships. And, conversely, poor communication is a destroyer of relationships. I think some things we really must keep in mind regardless the circumstance or conversation are these five points:
- What’s directly said
- What’s inferred
- What’s meant
- What’s heard
- How what’s heard is interpreted by the hearer
With those basic points as the framework, imagine the benefit and the blessing of speech that’s always grounded in grace or focused on grace or hemmed in grace? And, to be sure, it’s not a matter of the old saying: “It’s not what you say but how you say it.” Don’t get caught in that trap — a manipulative statement or question said sweetly or cleverly is still a manipulative statement or question. And another old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is a lie. Words can hurt. Words can destroy. That’s where that saying, “Loose lips sink ships,” holds a lot of water.
When we concentrate on having our speech be always with grace, we demonstrate we have high regard for our hearer in mind. What we’re saying, what we’re inferring and what we’re meaning is our side or our part of the communication — whatever grace there is in that depends on the importance we’ve placed on it. The other side of the communication depends on the other person: what’s heard and how what is heard is being interpreted by the other person–the hearer. This is why it’s such a useful practice or habit to seek feedback or to replay what you think you’ve just heard the other person say. Going a step further, it’s also useful to clarify the meaning behind what’s said. This is especially useful or important when discussing some serious matters or making serious decisions.
I shared last night with the ladies in the group how my husband had misunderstood a statement I’d made some weeks ago. After talking about the situation again at another time, I realized that I could’ve been clearer or elaborated on what I’d been thinking but was trying to communicate a point with some brevity that first time. I know, that’s hard for me. ~wink~ When my husband clarified what he thought I meant by what I said, I was able to tell him what I really meant. Isn’t it interesting how many misunderstandings would either never come to be in the first place or could be instantly clarified by simply restating back what we think the other person said or what we think the other person meant. We could save ourselves so much time and so much emotion if we’d just employ this simple process. It’s stilted at first, to be sure, when you begin to practice this communication clarification tool, but it’s a tool really worth learning to use and to personalize depending the situation.
Well, that verse in Colossians continues on with another critical aspect of our speech: that it be seasoned with salt that we may know how we ought to answer every man.
Think of delicious soup or any food, really, it’s usually the addition of salt that makes it so tasty! And, it’s what makes you want more! That, and it makes you thirsty! Now, think back on one of your recent conversations. Were your words seasoned with salt? Did you know how you ought to answer? Was your conversation satisfying? That’s some great food for thought, isn’t it?!
Salt’s an interesting thing when you think of all it does–not only is it savory, it’s a preservative. So, regarding conversation or communication, you might think: is it pure? is it clean? is it true? is it sincere? Think of some opposites — these might clarify for us a bit better if our communication is gracious and seasoned with salt or not: is it impure? is it unclean? is it empty (salt lost its savour, as in Mark 9.50)? is it corrupt? Ephesians 4.29 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.”
This is sobering, isn’t it. Bcz it’s pretty easy to fall into poor or derogatory communication, maligning, or ungracious speech. All of these different thoughts have caused me to question or mentally review recent days’ conversations: Were they always with grace? Was my speech seasoned with salt? Did my words point to my Saviour or to the Word? Did I draw others to Christ or give them a taste of heavenly things?