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Communication – Part 1

Author’s note: this is part of a long blog series on our ability to communicate effectively and efficiently. Feel free to look back on previous blogs and explore previous material on communicating and how you can communicate better.

Part 1 – Introduction

As I continue to diligently work to manage my business in a biblical manner, I have become increasingly aware that the most important tool I could (and should) develop is to better communicate. Keep in mind that I’m an engineer by education, and unfortunately many of the jokes about engineers being unable to effectively communicate are mostly true.

In case you have not heard any good engineer jokes, try this one.

“How can you tell an extroverted engineer? When he talks to you, he looks at your shoes instead of his own.”

My experience in the business world is that many people suffer from a lack of communication skills, whether they are looking at the toes of their shoes or at the pimple on your chin.

I have a staff of great designers and many of us have been together for years. Yet we, more often than we like to admit, have a difficult time communicating.

This lesson was most recently re-visited when one of my lead designers, and an extremely valuable member of my company, finally ended a monthly long disagreement by finally understanding our dispute was over how we were using certain words. My inability to clearly communicate almost ended a long and important business relationship as well as a great friendship.

Based on this experience, I am going to explore what lessons are available from the Bible about communicating. For my purpose, I’m not talking about any formal level of communications such as types of letters or patterns of speech. I’m concerned with our ability to convey a simple, accurate message to another person.

Although I have read extensively on communications in preparing for this blog, I am no expert. These blogs are tailored to reflect what I have discovered in academic articles, the Bible, and through personal experience about communicating.

I want to begin with some statistics that I found interesting and compelling. This information is dated as it comes from some research that Albert Mehrabian undertook in 1971, but the intent and scale is still relevant.

  • Words (the literal meaning) account for 7% of the overall message
  • Tone of voice accounts for 38% of the overall message
  • Body language accounts for 55% of the overall message

Therefore, during face-to-face communication, the nonverbal element is the most powerful at conveying feelings or attitudes – e.g. “I like this”, “I don’t like this”. In reflecting on my own style, I rely solely on words (and often more words than actually necessary) to convey what I think is my message.

You can imagine my surprise when I began to consider how I might better communicate through body language and tone.

You can also imagine my horror when I realized what I have been unintentionally communicating by not being aware of all the tools necessary to effectively communicate.

Being aware of my own deficiencies, I have spent considerable time watching how others communicate and am now hopeful what I have learned will benefit others.

In the next few blogs we will go into my approach to improving my communication skills. In the mean time, I want to close with a simple Bible verse that demonstrates and assures us that the Bible is equally concerned about our communications skills and wants to help us improve.

Proverbs 25:11 (ESV) says.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

A “fitly spoken” word is one used correctly with the right emphasis, delivered with the appropriate body language, at a time when needed, is correctly heard by the listener, and is remembered and applied.

Starting today, we need to work to make sure all our messages are “fitly spoken.”