Pitfalls in Communication: Sin

Part 6 of a 6 part series. View series intro and index.

Let’s have a short review of everything we’ve discussed over the past six weeks about our communication.  We assume the worst about people and assume they know what we are thinking.  We communicate differently than our neighbors, our friends, and the opposite gender because we are all from different cultures.  We tend to withhold important truths, manipulate facts, or change the subject.  We want to avoid talking to people face-to-face because it’s uncomfortable.  We have unreasonable expectations and therefore, become greatly disappointed in others.

That’s a pretty dismal pedigree.  All of these things happen because of something called sin.  It lives in us—even Christians—and it wreaks havoc on our relationships.  Listen to James, the brother of Jesus, talk about why we have problems with other people:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and you do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (4:1-3).

Jesus Christ has perfectly spoken on God’s behalf to the world.  And in turn, he has perfectly spoken to God on our behalf as our advocate (1 John 2:2).  That same passage in 1 Timothy says that Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all” (v. 6).  If haven’t received Christ by faith as the ransom for your sinful life—communication pitfalls included—to obtain peace before God (Rom. 5:1), then you will never experience peace with others.  Sure, there might be superficial peace and joy and it might seem great.  But if you haven’t addressed your greatest problem—your own sinful self—all your other problems will never get solved.

Quality communication with the people around us really can happen.  You don’t have to be a communicative failure.  Things can never be perfect, of course.  But the gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t exist just to save you from hell and damnation.  It exists to bring restoration between us and God and also to every area of life—especially relationships with others.

In the gospel, we find forgiveness on God’s part and repentance on ours.  In your life, you will have to do both with people, and if you can sincerely live this out with others, I trust that God will bring healing and redemption to your all of your relationships.


Pitfalls in Communication: Improper Channels

Part 4 of a 6 part series. View series intro and index.

At large, we tend to be very passive, non-confrontational, and people-pleasing communicators. Even the most aggressive among us, deep down, want to be loved and so we tend to shy away when problems come up. This disposition causes us to use bad channels of communication. Every day, each hour, we have choices to make about which channel to communicate through and the hardest choices happen when conflict rears its ugly head.

I think it’s funny that now that everyone has a cell phone, we actually call someone to discuss a problem and we hope to get the voicemail. When someone answers, we say, “Oh! I didn’t expect to get you. I was just getting ready to leave a voicemail.”  There are times when two people experience conflict and both go to extreme measures to avoid the other person, whether at home, work, or even out in public.

The bottom line is this: we choose a particular channel of communication based on what makes us comfortable or uncomfortable. Talking face-to-face with your boss about a problem is uncomfortable, so you write a note or send an email. Calling an offended friend is hard, so you send a pithy text message to try and smooth things over.  Looking your hurt spouse in the eyes is tortuous, so you avoid her altogether.

I’ve learned what channels to use the hard way. I’ve had more than my share of email conflicts, and I’ve avoided people and had huge consequences.  With all this in mind, here are some general guidelines for determining proper channels of communication:

  • Face-to-face should always be the desired channel of communication. If that is unavailable, then try a phone conversation. If you can’t call them, then send an email. Finally, if email is not possible, then get ready for thunder thumbs and send a text message.
  • Never communicate anything negative in a written channel.  Negative communication in an email or text can be deadly to any relationship. We know these are never good mediums because you cannot hear tone, inflection, or see the face and eyes of the other person.  However, negative communication doesn’t need to be offensive communication if delivered with kindness, gentleness, and loving truth while seeing and hearing the other person.  If you cannot get a hold of them, then send a message letting them know you’d like to meet in person.
  • Therefore, email should only be used for positive or neutral communication. This also applies for memos in an organizational context.
  • When having a face-to-face conversation, remember that people communicate differently. Some people speak faster than they think, while others need some time to internally process. Communicate how you communicate, but be gracious in allowing the other person to communicate how they communicate. If there is an abundance of grace and understanding from both people, conflict will not arise out of conflict.
  • Thanks to my fiancée, whom I’ve learned this from: in a written correspondence, if you have to write “I’m just kidding” or “That was a joke,” then you probably shouldn’t have written it.