what we have here is a failure to communicate

After enrolling in college in 1969, I finally earned my degree in 1998, graduating summa cum laude from Arkansas State University. I earned a BS in Communications with an emphasis in photojournalism.

Our curriculum in communications included how to speak, how to use rhetoric, how to write as well as communication difficulties between cultures.

Communication, however, is a two-way experience. There is the one who speaks and the one who is spoken to. As everyone knows, what is spoken is not necessarily what is heard.

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said,
but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

Alan Greenspan

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”—Alan Greenspan

What you heard is not what I meant.

Why is that so often true?

The reasons are many, but I want to focus on only one of those—LISTENING.

Out of the many classes in the communications curriculum there was never more than lip-service paid to the idea of listening. It may have been mentioned in one or two classes, but that is all.

I have discovered, though, that the skill of listening is more important than the skill of speaking when considering the concept of communication.

It is the failure to listen effectively that is at the heart of so much
mis-communication, so much misunderstanding.

Each of us could benefit from improving our listening skills.

Listening is much more than simply allowing sound to penetrate and touch our eardrum. It is taking the time to truly understand what is being said.

There are two verses of Scripture which speak directly to this concept of listening well. I only have room to deal with one at this time, though.

Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger
(Jas 1:19).

There is a key to the lessening of anger flare-ups in this verse. It is not a separate command to avoid anger. The verse is actually about a method by which anger may be avoided.

Many, if not most, anger episodes occur as a direct result of a failure to understand what was said.

Remember the line from the movie, “Cool Hand Luke?” “What we have here is a failure to communicate!”

If we could simply learn to put our own thoughts on hold when another person is speaking, there would be less anger. Too often, we are ‘quick to speak’ instead of ‘slow’ as the verse says.

It is not about talking more slowly. It is about waiting to answer.

In your next conversation, try waiting a full five seconds after the other person is finished before you speak.

Stay tuned. There is more to come.

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