A crisp baritone voice thunders across the silent expanse:
Your leeeft, your leeeft, your left, right, left
Your leeeft, your leeeft, your left, right, left…..
To the reaaar, March
One voice distinctly heard by hundreds of men and women marching in exquisite unison.
Nothing misunderstood. No missteps.
The ultimate display of effective communication.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could communicate in such a way that left no room for error or miscommunication?
It's possible; otherwise, there would be no armies capable of marching in exact harmony.
Communication is what makes the world go around, and it can be beautiful in its simplicity when done well or catastrophic when applied carelessly.
So, how can we learn from this military example and implement effective communication into all areas of our lives?
Three simple steps:
Know your role.
Know your audience.
Be willing to adapt.
Know Your Role
THE SPEAKER- If it is your job to convey a message? Do so with clarity and simplicity. Sometimes less really is more. Pay close attention to your demeanor and tone; how you are saying something is just as important as the words you choose. Approach your listener with respect and tailor your communication style to the person and situation. Delicate communications may need to be accomplished face-to-face from a place of compassion and empathy to avoid misunderstandings.
THE LISTENER- Is it your job to listen or to speak? You really can’t do both- not with any level of expertise. If you are already formulating your response while the speaker is still talking- you aren’t listening! The art of listening requires giving the other person your full attention by demonstrating your willingness to hear them through direct eye contact, facial expression, and body language. Let the person finish their thought and be willing to gain clarification of the message received by reiterating what you heard and asking if it is correct. Be approachable, attentive and prepared to understand; sometimes it is in the unsaid that the real message resides.
Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience can be tricky; especially in our technology-driven world that has altered our traditional means of communication. Gone are the days of waiting for a conventional letter to show up in the mail or hours spent on the phone catching up on the day's events. Now we are faced with different methods and generations of people all trying to communicate in differentiating ways. Take, for example, the following:
Traditionalist- Born before 1946, this generation communicates with a higher degree of formality in their communication style. They much prefer face-to-face or written communication.
Baby Boomer- Born between 1946 and 1964, this generation values personal communication and would rather speak verbally as opposed to email or text communications. Body language is critical to them and open, direct, and honest interaction is appreciated.
Generation X- Born between 1965 and 1980, this generation grew up with the beginnings of technology, and they tend to prefer communicating by email. If in-person communication is necessary, they prefer brief, informal conversations.
Millennials- Born between 1981 and 1996 are the first generation to be raised using the internet from an early age, and they expect instant responses. Patience is not a virtue with speed and instant gratification their preference.
Generation Z- Born after 1996, this generation doesn’t know life without the internet- technology governs, and a large percentage admit to being addicted to their devices.
Let’s not forget about gender differences. For many men, communication is a form of negotiation; they seek wins, problem solve, and offer advice. For many women, communication is a form of relationship building, seeking understanding, and finding equality. Women typically communicate with many words, and men tend to prefer to minimize words.
Be Willing to Adapt
Being mindful of our role and audience is the first step to good communication. However, being flexible in our communication style is the final element of success. The ability to adapt to both gender and generational differences will facilitate a more harmonious exchange and lessen the chance of misunderstandings.
As Christians, we should strive to excel in all our communications, whether in our home, church, or workplace.
Ecclesiastes 10:12 tells us:
“The words of a wise man's mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him.”
Words are potent instruments; they can hurt or encourage; they can teach or tear down; they can leave lasting impressions on someone's soul and can hinder or advance opportunities.
Use your words wisely; they can command lasting harmony or discord.
Father, thank you for the beautiful gift of communication. May we never forget that words matter both in this lifetime and in eternity. Help us, Lord, to use our words wisely and to have a heart that promotes harmony, kindness, consideration, and compassion.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”~Matthew 12:36-37