“What we have here is a failure to communicate!” You might remember this famous line from the Paul Newman movie, Cool Hand Luke
One of the more serious problems we face in pastoral ministry is the breakdown of communication. It can happen in a congregation, a small group, a business meeting, and in staff meetings. Yes, communication breakdowns can even bleed over into family relationships, husbands and wives, parents and children.
Here four guaranteed ways to improve your communication with anyone.
No matter what the communication, make it your goal to listen more than you talk.
“Be quick to hear…” When someone is speaking, are you really listening or are you thinking about your response? Don’t form your response until after you are sure you have heard what the other person is saying. To make sure you understand, try a statement like this, “Here is what I hear you saying…” Then tell the other person what you think they said.
Make eye contact with the other person.
When you make eye contact you are affirming the value of the other person. You value the person and you value their thoughts and ideas. There are too many distractions that will keep you from good communication. Learn to give eye contact and attention to the other person. This gesture alone will have a bigger impact than you imagine.
Avoid “you” statements.
Unless you are saying, “thank you”, your statements should be about your thoughts, your understanding, and your values. “You” statements tend to put people on the defensive. “You” statements tend to shut down communication.
Ask questions rather than make statements.
Questions open communication and give you the opportunity to listen. Questions make the other person think and respond. Questions are the gateway to learning about the other person and their real needs. Questions can change the whole conversation and create the opportunity to build a better relationship.
Here are three questions we recommend for any conversation between husband and wife or parent and child:
First, “What are you facing this week?” This question brings you in touch with the other person’s world.
Second, “What made you feel loved this past week?” This question will remind you about the other person’s love language.
Third, “How can I pray for you?” This question will give you insight into his/her spiritual needs.
Pastors, you are not alone. If you are struggling with empathy fatigue, marital challenges, ministry conflict, or discouragement, reach out to us at careforpastors.org We want to see every pastoral family thriving in marriage, vibrant in ministry, and making an impact in the kingdom of God.