Development of Communication Skills

Rob Green March 7, 2009 Romans 12:1-2

 

Introduction

– How are you doing at communicating with others and specifically your list of 2 persons?  Would anyone be willing to share?

I believe that we have the proper theology regarding our communication.  When I am convinced

  1.  That the way I communicate with others has a powerful impact on them and on my relationship with them then that puts me in the position of wanting to evaluate my conversations.
  2. That my communication is really an outworking of my heart’s desires.  I communicate the way I do because I want to have what I want.  This helps me explain why people, including myself, behave.
  3. That my desires can change through the “renew your mind / put off / put on” process just like a behavior can change.  In other words, I am only partially worried about the fruit and I am very concerned about the roots.

This process helps me understand why I have communication breakdowns. 

  • I have already explained that communication breakdowns occur at our desire or heart level.  I want a desire to be fulfilled and so I will take the appropriate action.
  • The solution is either (1) I am making one of my desires more important than it should be or (2) I am reacting in a sinful manner to a right desire not fulfilled [get angry, yell, demean, make sarcastic remarks, etc.]

However, I want to run another idea by you.  This idea is not biblical in the sense that I am taking it from the scriptures.  Instead, I am seeking to think through how I might identify some of the desires that I might be most likely to want ---- patterns of sinfulness if you will. 

I have created a “communication matrix”.  In this matrix I have 3 major components.  Your job is to think of which phrases in each component accurately describe you.  I realize that at a given moment I can want something different but I want you to think about the big picture here.

Type of Information

Number of subjects to discuss

Communication approach

Just the facts

One at a time

Logical “argument” – emphasis on facts and progression

Tell me the whole story

Many at once

Emotional – emphasis on feelings and responses

I want you to think for a minute how you fit into this matrix

Here is how Pastor Green describes how he and his wife fit into the matrix.  Look at the matrix and develop your own scenario.  Please don’t get caught up in the limitations of the matrix.  The point is that we all have preferred styles of communication and what happens when those styles clash.

When I am the hearer I tend to want the top line – all three of them.  I want the facts, I want to talk about one item at a time and I want a nice logical progression of thought.  I am at my best when people communicate with me in this fashion.  This is my “communication” language to borrow terminology from the Love languages book.

  • Stephanie on the other hand is “tell me the whole story” lets talk about 4-5 issues at the same time and do it logically [although not logic on steroids].  So we share the last column and not the first two.

INPUT – What do you think some of the communication struggles were for us?

I have shaded my desire list.  That is not to say that I will never have a desire different than these but these are the “big rock” items for me.  In a conversation this is what I would normally want.

I want to be right

I want your undivided attention

I want you to agree / [I don’t want to be wrong]

I want you to appreciate me

I want the proper amount of interaction [sometimes wordy sometimes brief]

I want you to listen to me and acknowledge what I say [to be understood]

I want you to do what I say

I want to irritate you

I want to solve the problem

I want to frustrate you

I want to be in control

I want to demonstrate intellectual superiority

I want peace in the situation

I want to be left alone

I want you to be emotionally involved in what I am telling you

I don’t want to compromise

I want you to like me [fear of rejection]

I want to argue [I like arguing]

This exercise is meant to be descriptive.  It is meant for you to think about and wrestle with how you communicate.  It is meant for you to do some self-reflection. 

However, just because something describes your tendencies or personalities does not mean that you have a right to those things.  That is what Ephesians 4:17-24 was all about last week and it echoes passages like

Romans 12:1-2  Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Here is my hope at this stage:

  1. You can properly describe how you communicate and the desires that encourage you to communicate in that fashion.
  2. That you have a desire to be transformed.  To have your character transcend your personality.  Which as we have seen involved mind-renewal, put off, and put on.

INPUT – How then does confession and repentance and possibly forgiveness fit into this picture? 

I believe that if you are really going to change your communication with those 2 persons or with anyone else for that matter confession/repentance/forgiveness comes into play.  There is no other way to resolve the past or to honestly move forward in the future.

Now that we understand our hearts and how our hearts drive our communication let’s begin working on a series of communication skills to help us honor the Lord and build relationships.

Teachers- You can review these passages several different ways.  Small groups, as a large group or even just reviewing one or two and assign the rest as homework.  You decide what works best for your class.  The instructions are written for small groups.

  1. Please read your assigned passage and in a single phrase or sentence explain the meaning.
  2. Please describe 3-5 ways that you could specifically apply this principle.
  3. Please describe 3-5 ways to identify when you have violated that principle.

Passage list: 

Group 1:  Proverbs 10:19 / 13:3 --- Importance of not talking more than necessary

Group 2:  Proverbs 10:14 ---- Bad advice leads to bad decisions / be careful who you listen to

 Group 3:  Proverbs 12:18 / 15:1 --- The consequences of soft vs. harsh words

Group 4:  Proverbs 15:28 / 17:9 --- Importance of not talking about others

Group 5:  Proverbs 17:14 / 20:3 --- Avoiding being an active participant in a quarrel

Group 6:  Phil 4:8 ---- Importance of one’s thought life in their overall communication

Transition to four rules of communication lesson

That brings us to the beginning of what our church has commonly called the 4 rules of communication.

Read Ephesians 4:25-32

I realize some of you have heard some of this before, while this is new material for others of you. 

  • The point is not so much that these 4 rules are all that there is to communication. 
  • Rather, the point of the “4 rules” is that they are pretty easy to remember and they are broad enough to cover a bunch of different situations. 
  • These skills – along with the skills mentioned last week – will really help you to change the way to speak to others [assuming of course that you have done business with God in your hearts].

Rule #1:  Be Honest

Notice in v. 25 there is a contrast between lying and truth.

I would like to point out 3 items from v. 25.

First, honesty is really more than not lying. 

  • We can be very deceptive by refusing to say something.
  • For example, on this confidentiality point I mentioned earlier someone could say, “I committed adultery but you cannot tell anyone.”  Obviously, this person would be very deceptive to their spouse until they told them.

Second, we also need to be careful for 100% words or exaggerations. 

  • 100% words and exaggerations are really not intended to communicate the truth --- they are meant to get our point across whatever that point might be.
  • Can we agree that exaggeration in some circumstances might be fine and in other circumstance is not fine?

 INPUT – What criteria should I use to determine if exaggeration is acceptable?

INPUT – When are the most likely times for me to use exaggeration in a sinful way?

Third, the motivation for such as action according to the text:  we are members of one another.

 In other words, one of the reasons that we would not lie or deceive is that we are members of the same team! 

-         If this is true for the church in general how much more true should it be in our family?

-         One of the things that we are concerned about is that too many Christians are not much more than consumers – they go to a church that will give them what they want but they won’t be very concerned about the people sitting beside them. 

-      One of our desires is to see our church being a group of servers of one another rather than simply a consumer of someone else.

  INPUT – When is being honest most difficult?

 Rule #2:  Keep Current

As we look at vv. 26-27 we have a number of issues with the text that make it challenging.  For example, under what conditions is anger acceptable?  How is the sun going down used (metaphorically or literally)?  What does it mean that we give the devil a foothold?

Observation #1:  We must be very careful about anger since it rarely contributes to godliness

We know that all anger cannot be wrong because Jesus was angry.  God says that he is angry everyday with the wicked.  So it is obvious that all anger cannot be wrong.

 However, as we look at anger we need to recognize the contexts and reasons God is angry.

 Read these 4 passages about Jesus or God being angry.

 2 Kings 17:16-18; Zecharaiah 1:2-6; Hebrews 3:7-11; Mark 3:5;

The observation that comes to the forefront is that righteous anger is first and foremost over sins against God.

-         So we must assume that anger that does not have to do with God’s righteous standards is not righteous anger.

-     In fact, looking at Matthew 5:22 we see that anger can be very dangerous.

So we must be on guard that our emotion of anger does not result in attacking other people because we have been offended; or about using that emotion to become bitter against someone else.

 The anger is a warning sign that something is wrong and needs to be handled. 

  • Sometimes it means God has to be on the throne rather than us and sometimes it means we need to be an instrument in God’s hand to help deal with a problem.

 Observation #2:  The anger serves as a motivation to resolve the matter quickly.

“Letting the sun go down” was a fairly common phrase in the ancient world.  With no electricity the day began at first light and concluded when the sun went down.  Thus, sometime between 7 and 9 pm the day would have been considered over and all the activities of the day resolved.

  • One had to pay wages for example before the sun went down

Thus, this statement is probably a proverbial one that relates to solving today’s problems today.  There are a couple of common ways that we struggle to do this.

  1. Clam up – We just internalize it. 
    INPUT – What might be some of the negative consequences of clamming up both for you personally and for the relationship?
  2. Attack a substitute –taking work problems  home and take out their frustrations on their spouses. 
    INPUT – What impact might this have on themselves and others?

I would like to suggest to you that the concept of “never going to bed angry” is a good rule of thumb, but there may be times that it would be best to wait for the next day.  We have several questions that can help us deal with matters properly.

  • Do I have the facts right?  Sometimes we can really get irritated and blast the fire out of people before we even have the facts.  Why did our boss give us that assignment – doesn’t he know how busy I am already?  Why does my wife place these demands on me – is she trying to crush me?
  • Is my timing right?  We are all sinful and quite frankly sometimes we are not ready to hear it.  Trying to force it will only make matters worse.  We don’t want to go to the other extreme and say the “timing” is never right, but sometimes we need a day to think and pray.
  • Is my attitude right?  Am I trying to help or harm the other person?
  • Have I thought through what I am going to say?  Are those words loving? ---- One tip when you are angry ----- always start the conversation with something good.
  • Have I asked for the Lord’s help to please Him in this situation?

Observation 3:  Refusing to deal with anger allows the devil to exert influence in your life

Ephesians 6 reminds that we are at war – not just in Iraq.  All believers are in a spiritual war.  To put this idea in military terms – when we do not deal properly with our anger we give the enemy needed intelligence.

  • One of the events that turned the tide on WWII was the breaking of the German code.  From that point on the allies were at a tremendous advantage because they knew about German plans.
  • Refusing to deal with our anger is like giving the devil our code.  It provides him with a golden opportunity to use our anger and exploit it to destroy ourselves (through self pity, victimization, bitterness, and rebellion) and others (Heb. 12:15).

There are people in our community and maybe even in this church who have never learned the principles we have taught the last few weeks on communication.   What they have done is slowly but surely crushed their relationships.  Everything they have is shallow because that is all their communication will allow.

  • I want to encourage you to learn to do this well now.  I wish I had learned these things and taken them to heart a long time ago.  It would have saved me a lot of heartache.

Rule #3 – Attack the Problem not the Person

In v. 29 we see a contrast between unwholesome words and words that give grace to those who hear.  All too often our speech is characterized by a series of attacks on the other person.

  • If you don’t like the message kill the messenger [all over the Bible]

INPUT – What are some of the ways that our words can be “unwholesome”?

  • We do this by (1) name calling; (2) bringing up faults that have nothing to do with our conversation; (3) being aggressive and confrontational; (4) putting words in the other person’s mouth
  • What this does is create problems rather than solve them

The other half of this verse is what is emphasized.  This is actually one of my favorite verses in Ephesians. 

  • We are looking for words that are EDIFYING --- INPUT --- What does that look like?
  • I would encourage you to build into your habits an emphasis on gratefulness with those in your circle of influence. 
  • I am convinced that one of the reasons people do not deal well with difficult times is that they have not been a good steward of the good times.
  • All too often we function with the mentality of “I told you I loved you when we got married and if anything changes I will let you know.”
  • We are looking for words that minister GRACE
  • I like to think of our words as a conduit for Grace.
  • We are looking for words that fit the need of the moment. 
  • INPUT - What does that look like?  Does that eliminate or somehow limit our emphasis on dealing with the problem?

I firmly believe this….

  • You can solve an awful lot of problems with edifying and encouraging words
  • You will create a lot of problems if you attack folks in the midst of trying to solve them.

I would like to suggest to you 3 reasons why “Getting it off your chest is unbiblical”

  1. Getting it off your chest does not deal with the problem instead it involves another party
  2. It focuses on self --- and having some measure of relief ---- rather than being concerned about the relationship
  3. It can be based on feelings and therefore encourage a more “feeling-approach” to life

Rule #4 – Act, Don’t React

In vv. 31-32 we have a series of possible actions and reactions.

The reactions are bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice.  All these words share something in common --- The desire to harm the other person in some way. 

  • That harm can come through the loss of relationship (bitterness)
  • Think of an example in your own life where you watched a relationship crumble due to bitterness.
  • It can come through a physical altercation of some type (wrath and anger) whether it is yelling, saying cruel things, or something involving touch.
  • Think of how someone responds when the other person just losses it. [movie Fireproof and the early scene where Kirk Cameron screams at his “wife” ---- how long it took to win her back]
  • It can come through the way we talk about others (clamor and slander).  Where what we do is give someone a bad reputation.

These reactions of bitterness, wrath, anger,….can be fairly easy depending on (1) how deeply we have been hurt; (2) how we have responded to being hurt in the past; and (3) who is doing the hurting. 

One of the points here is that you normally need to take a minute and think about your responses rather than just lash out.

Instead of responding in some way to harm another person v. 32 emphasizes

Kindness

  • Sometimes we struggle being as kind as we should be.  We fail to recognize the impact that our words / actions might have on others.
  • We need to develop a regular habit of kindness in our lives.  This will pay dividends when we are forced to deal with a situation that is not so pleasant.

 Tenderheartedness

  • Here again we can see an opposite from the previous list.  Instead of anger, malice, wrath we are focused on tenderness.
  • Prov. 15:1 says a soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger.

forgiveness

  • All human relationships that last will require forgiveness.  We will sin against each other and when we do we need to have a mechanism to resolve that issue.
  • Basically, forgiveness is to release a person from the debt that they incurred when they harmed you.  Practically speaking this would mean
  • Not bringing it up to the other person’s harm
  • Not telling others
  • Not dwelling on it yourself

Summary

As you look across the skills we have a lot more than 4 – much closer to 7-8.  These 7-8 communication skills coupled with a commitment to deal with your heart can radically transform your communication.

Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.