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communication

One Of The Hardest Disciplines To Master

Bulletin Article For Lehman Avenue (7/26/20)

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Neal Pollard

Friendships, businesses, marriages, organizations, and churches all suffer when this fails. There are many more ways to do it wrong than right. But, it is the lifeline of every important relationship, from God to mankind to the smallest child. Here are some suggestions that can help us all improve in it.

C–orrespond. It is not communication if only one side is doing it. At times, we send the message that a person is not important or valued if their email, text, or phone call is not followed up on. Likewise, a relationship cannot be strong where only one side is talking.

O–penness. We may not know how to disagree, correct, or suggest something to someone without fearing that it will escalate, be taken the wrong way, or just be unpleasant. So, we may mask criticisms, feelings, suggestions, or complaints so effectively that the other person is unaware of how we feel. Each of us need to be approachable and reasonable so that others feel free to be open with us. “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed” (Prov. 27:5). 

M–anage. Sometimes, we fail to communicate (especially by phone, email, or other electronic means) because a person too frequently reaches out to us or consumes a lot of our time. It is important to maintain balance and keep control of our own resources like time and productivity. Most of us have several people and obligations in our lives and cannot let one or a few take up all of our time (Eph. 5:16). 

M–odel. Take the first step. Show others by example how to effectively communicate. Learn and grow, then turn and show. Read the gospels and see how Jesus communicated. He is the great example (1 Pet. 2:21). 

U–nity. “How can two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Communication allows us to know what others are thinking, whether they are in agreement or disagreement. Unity is forged through communication. Division thrives in miscommunication or the failure to communicate. How bound together can homes, churches, friendships, and workforces be where communication is lacking?

N–otice. Some of the best communication occurs when we are tuned in to people. In face to face conversation, observing body language and tone of voice. On the phone, listening for verbal cues and clues. In written correspondence (messages and emails), discerning what the main point is. Communication is at least as much about being an effective listener as it is about getting our message across clearly. Great communicators are attuned to others. 

I–mportant. Good communicators make sure that everyone at work, church, school, home, and the like feel valued. Avoid being selective and making only rich, powerful, pretty, or smart people (as we judge it) feel important. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35). Should we be?

C–ourtesy. How much does it cost to be kind, yet what dividends can it pay in relationships? Being responsive sends such a powerful message. So does being ignored. The Golden Rule is simple: “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31). 

A–dapt. Everyone has their preferred methods of communication as well as those they dislike. Be guided by how others prefer to communicate and try to accommodate as you are able. It’s not fair to expect everyone to communicate with you only in the way you prefer. This is an example of Paul’s being all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:19-22). 

T–imely. Delay becomes disregarded at some point. Procrastination is the thief of time, but also the robber of relationships. We can actually more efficient if we will respond quickly, if possible. If we are prevented from immediately replying, we should make it a priority or we easily forget. 

E–veryone. These rules of communication really apply to all of us, no matter who we are, what the relationship is, or what we do. Some of the busiest people I know are nonetheless great communicators. They have no more time, intelligence, or ability. They realize how vital it is to the overall well-being of their relationships. Christians are in the relationship business!

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communication gossip

No Answer

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

In December of 1971, the UK band, Electric Light Orchestra, released an eponymously titled album. In the United States, however, we know this album by a different name. Why is that? In the US, ELO released their music through United Artists Records. Someone from UAR had attempted to contact ELO’s manager to ascertain what the album’s title for its US release. Unable to reach him, the UAR representative had jotted down the words, “no answer.”

The misinterpretation of the message led to the unintentional titling of ELO’s first US release.  And so, in early 1972, Americans could buy the new British band’s first studio-recorded album,  No Answer1 This album mishap is an amusing example of miscommunication. When such miscommunication takes place in personal relationships, however, the results more often are destructive.

Relationships can be severed because some miscommunication led to an argument. Within such cases, the injured party failed to discern the message of the perceived injurer. Sadly, they don’t go to that person, and on some occasions they go to a third party, sympathetic to their interests. At this point, the one initially misunderstood has two people angry at him or her without cause. Perhaps, in response, this misunderstood person will likewise go to yet another party, someone understanding of his or her position in the matter. It is incredible to see how many people can quickly become embroiled in something that ultimately is only a misunderstanding between two people!

New Testament scripture addresses this problem and provides a solution. Unfortunately, it may be one of the most ignored precepts of Christian doctrine. Jesus Himself gave this precept as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 18.15-17). Whenever you feel that another party has done something injurious to you, you are to go to that individual privately to resolve the problem. If that person does not listen to you, then you are permitted to bring one or two others with you in another attempt to be reconciled to him or her. If that fails, then you have permission to bring the matter to the attention of the greater community. When the community (in this instance, the assembly or church) encourages that person to reconcile with the other party, and he or she refuses a third time, then one can sever that relationship formally. One does not break ties before the extension of three opportunities for reconciliation, however.

So, the next time someone says or does something that you do not understand, give them the benefit of the doubt. Go to the one you feel has offended you first. Do not gossip about the “offender” to another. Do what you can to fix the problem as soon as you can. No answer, on the other hand, is not an acceptable solution.

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A later ELO album (1977)

REFERENCE

1 Mikkelson, David. “Electric Light Orchestra’s No Answer.” Snopes.com, Snopes Media Group Inc., 19 Dec. 2012, www.snopes.com/fact-check/no-answer/.

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anger communication debate Uncategorized

More Light Than Heat

Neal Pollard

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius counsels his daughter, Ophelia, about Hamlet’s vows of love, saying, “When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul lends the tongue vows. These blazes, daughter, giving more light than heat, extinct in both even in their promise as it is a-making, you must not take for fire” (Act 1, Scene 3). Her point is that passionate desire causes a man to profusely promise anything in order to get what he wants, but it may lack substance and trustworthiness. It appears more promising than it really is. We’ve likely all witnessed and experienced this. What good is a fire if it doesn’t produce heat?

When it comes to discussing religious matters, things can get pretty heated. Unfortunately, as the temperature rises, solid conclusions are elusive because there is much more emotion than illumination. Inasmuch as God’s Word is to be a light and lamp (Ps. 119:105), these are times where all are benefited by more light than heat. Too often, instead of proving or disproving something, we resort to personal attacks on the other person, assert a position appealing to a variety of alleged proofs or rationales without benefit of a singular Scripture, or we’ll abuse, distort, and contort a passage to say what it does not mean. As battle lines are drawn and trenches are dug, the two sides become wider and more intensely apart while the matter under discussion fades into the background. 

Because the New Testament repeatedly commands unity (Eph. 4:1ff; 1 Cor. 1:10-13), we must “pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (Rom. 14:19). Are there tangible actions we can take to pursue more light than heat in these matters that distress our unity?

  • Genuinely listen. That doesn’t mean merely hear what the other is saying, but listen open-mindedly, seeking to understand what the other person is saying. Don’t presuppose or listen with prejudice. Truly, “He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him” (Prov. 18:13). 
  • Genuinely love. Love for God should be preeminent, but such love is not in opposition to brotherly love. In fact, they are intrinsically bound together (1 Jn. 4:20-21). While love does not mean compromising truth, it will prompt us to do what love requires (cf. 1 Cor. 13:4-8)—be patient, be kind, act becomingly, don’t be provoked, etc. 
  • Genuinely learn. Do we really know their view or merely think we do? This requires great self-examination and disciplined introspection. If we champion a position and have argued the matter before, we may think our fellow disputant believes what he or she does not actually believe. Preconceptions eclipse thoughtful interaction. We should ever be students, making sure we’ve not missed it. 
  • Genuinely long. Peace and unity will sometimes be impossible, but we shouldn’t let that be because we didn’t sincerely seek it. By lovingly seeing the other person as an eternal soul for whom Christ died (as well as any and all who would be influenced by the other person), surely we will strive to gently, civilly, and earnestly discuss the matter (cf. 2 Tim. 2:24-26). 

We live in divisive times. They are carnal times, full of “bitterness and wrath and clamor and slander…with all malice” (Eph. 4:31). We must remember that the “anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:20). What does? God’s Word (Jas. 1:18-25)! Too often, we’ll be locked in matters of truth and error and must uphold truth. But let’s be so careful to discern when that’s the case and always speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Such will produce light rather than heat!

Burn Light Wood Heat Fire Red Burning Flame

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communication controversy godliness Paul preaching Uncategorized

Communication Landmines

Neal Pollard

Paul writes two letters of instruction to Timothy, the preacher at Ephesus. As his father in the faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:18), Paul wanted the younger man endowed with the wisdom and courage to be God’s man.  Timothy would face pressures and temptations from many different directions. The apostle’s words also provide some common sense to help him do the sometimes difficult task of preaching and ministry.

In a letter full of the theme of godliness, 1 Timothy, Paul gives him some intriguing encouragement in the sixth chapter. He says, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (6:3-5). In this brief admonition, he gives Timothy several tips to help him be a useful communicator of God’s truth. He urges Timothy to avoid:

  • Compromise. Not only here, but throughout the letter, Paul urges Timothy to teach the pure doctrine of Christ, those sound words and that godly doctrine. If we bow to pressures and change the revealed word of Christ, we become deadly communicators.
  • Conceit. Ironically, the conceited often look down upon others. Yet, Paul ties the arrogance to ignorance (“understands nothing”). When we encounter one who condescendingly communicates, we are prone to tune them out even if they are telling the truth. It is incongruous to have a pompous preacher speak of the lowly Jesus. It’s a credibility killer.
  • Controversy. We live in the age of controversy. It is splashed all over the traditional media and social media. It is often manufactured, and it is the mark of a morbid (literally, “sick”) mind. The controversialist will be found at the heart of disputes, ever seeking to dig up something, hash and rehash it, and keep it going. We can be accused of that for simply trying to communicate God’s will, especially when unpopular, but some are never far from contention. It is characteristic of them.
  • Constant friction. This is listed last among several other results of controversy, along with envy, strife, abusive language, and evil suspicions. Have you ever been around someone who keeps up an atmosphere of tension? The chip is always on the shoulder. Their communication is always confrontational. It appeals to the depraved and deprived, according to Paul.

Paul was so bold that he would die for preaching the truth (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-8). Yet, he urged Timothy to be peaceable, kind, adept, patient, and gentle when communicating it (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Is it possible to courageously stand with the Christ but do so using the precise scalpel of Scripture (Heb. 4:12) rather than the reckless explosives of excess? Yes, and each of us must predetermine that we will do so no matter how others act and react.

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communication Dilbert listening Uncategorized

How Well Do We Listen?

Neal Pollard

A Dilbert comic strip by Scott Adams is a side-splitter! Dilute is sitting in one of what seems like an endless series of meetings, and the fellow next to him is droning on and on about something. Dilbert thinks to himself that he will substitute an optimistic remark for listening and winds up making an inappropriate and awkward remark. The droner is aghast!

Listening is not a forte for most of us. In casual conversation with either acquaintances or intimate friends we often are much more intent to have our say than to hear out the other person. McKay and Davis, in Messages, mentions no fewer than 12 “listening blocks” (comparing, mind-reading, judging, dreaming, sparring, placating, etc.) (8-12). On just about anyone’s list of main contributors to marital difficulty is communication breakdown. A spouse may even hear what the other is saying but still miss the deeper messages being sent. Our children will find an audience to share their fears, questions, confusions, frustrations, and hopes. Parents who do not give their children an open forum, no matter how inconvenient it may be for them at times, lose their spot at that precious roundtable. In the church, we often lose our members–especially when they are in emotional, financial, or spiritual crisis–because we are not listening to what they say is going on with them.

We know how frustrated we feel when we think we have not been heard. Preachers and Bible class teachers usually have moments along the way when they think, “If I stopped talking right now, would anybody know or care?” Soul-winners may feel that their students sometimes respond to their teaching by tuning out the message. Elders and members often feel that way toward each other, that they are not being heard.

Let me encourage you to, borrowing the words of Jesus, “take heed how you hear” (Luke 8:18). A friend and former elder, John Langham, once reminded me of Proverbs 18:13, that “he who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Make a special effort, in whatever position as listener you may find yourself, to work hard to actively, faithfully tune in to the one speaking to you. It is not only polite, but it allows you to be more clearly heard. Let’s practice today!

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