Improving Communication

Communication can be improved by using these suggestions that have been gathered
from many sources:

Say it in writing

Written communications will avoid some of the chances of distortion. A one-time verbal communication has a great danger of distortion. Written communication may take the form of memos, letters, reports, policy and procedure manuals, and other things. When making group presentations, one should use visual aids. When an oral discussion takes place, a written confirmation of the oral discussion should follow. This can be especially helpful following a meeting or conference where a decision was made.

Use language that is clear and exact

The reader should easily understand the language used. Written communications should be interesting to assure they will be read. The communications should avoid ambiguity and jargon that might be misunderstood. Common words should always be used unless more exact words are needed for definition. If you use words that everybody knows, then everybody can understand what you are saying. If you are loading trucks, say that you are loading trucks, rather than saying, “utilizing available non-rail ground mode transportation resources.”

Communicate as much information as it is possible

Lack of communication breeds rumors and rumors destroy morale. Generally, one should err in favor of saying too much rather than too little.

Always tell the truth in communications

It is all right to say, “I don’t have the freedom to disclose that information,” but never say “I don’t know,” if in fact you do know. Dishonesty will destroy integrity and confidence. Be very careful with ministerial estimates. Always “speak the truth, in love.”

Cultivate feedback from the followers

Feedback can give a mental and emotional response. Feedback can be verbal or nonverbal. Teachers use tests as feedback to see if the learners have gotten the right message from the communication.

Be friendly, polite, and considerate when communicating

Try to get to know the group you need to communicate with as well as possible

Try to establish rapport with them by spending time with them, knowing and understanding their problems and needs, and showing a genuine love and interest in them. When we understand them, we can see an idea from their point of view. Some say you cannot really know a person until “you walk for a day in his moccasins.”

The effective communicator will learn to ask questions and to listen. Try using different types of questions to get information, and learn about attitudes:

Use leading questions and not loaded questions. Loaded questions put a person on the defensive.
Ask cool questions and not heated ones. A heated question reflects the feelings of the questioner, and incites the feelings of the respondent.
Ask open questions and not closed ones. Open questions invite the person to express freely what he feels.

Consider the probable barriers that need to be overcome

Emotional concepts can be big barriers. Fear of change is a barrier. Status differentials are barriers, and the wider the gap in the status of two people, the more difficult it becomes for them to communicate.

Consider the importance that may be placed on the sender

It makes a difference when the pastor asks something rather than a lay church member. It makes a difference when a letter is sent third class, first class, or special delivery. This difference is based on the sender. Even if the message is the same, the reception is very different. A personal telephone reminder of a meeting from the pastor is much more effective than a postcard reminder from a secretary.

Recognize that there are formal and informal channels for communication, and that sometimes the informal one may communicate a message faster

Ladies on the telephone may be an example of an informal channel. Formal channels are necessary for the communication to be viewed as authoritative.

An important message should use several mediums

Advertising has learned to do this effectively.

Styles of Communication

There are different styles of communication.  There is a definite preferred method over the alternatives and all leaders should strive for it.

1. The developmental style – involves a mutual sharing of information among equals. The communication moves back and forth, with each person trying to convey his ideas and to understand those of others. Each person is open-minded and receptive to the ideas of others. The communication seeks to inform and to stimulate others. The developmental communicator seeks out the ideas of others and explores them with interest by asking questions, reflecting on the opinions he hears, and showing support. He encourages others to talk, seeks mutual understanding of a situation, and looks for new approaches to problems. This is almost always the best style.

2. The controlling style – has the communicator assuming the primary role. Most of the communication flows from him out to others. He assumes that his ideas are the best and he tries to sell them to others and to dominate the situation. This style is best when one person has most of the information and experience, when the speed of decision-making is important, and when unity is not necessary.

3. The relinquishing style – gets along good with the controlling style. The relinquished prefers to stay in the background and shift the responsibility for the conversation and any decision to others. He readily accepts the input from others and gives up his own ideas and convictions. He is really not interested in discussing a problem. He contributes very little to the communication process. He will use accommodation and try to comply with the wishes of others.

4. The withdrawal style – avoids contact with others. He withdraws and quits contributing to the conversation.

Distortion in Communication

Muddled messages can cause havoc within an organization. Instructions that are misunderstood can set people off in the wrong directions or put them to work in vain. Written policies that are open to misinterpretation can cause a lot of confusion in the entire organization. Language in communication that is not clear or considerate of employees can torpedo morale.

There are at least six possibilities of distortion in communication:

1. What the speaker intends to say. He does not always say what he intends to say.

2. What the speaker actually says. The mouth is not always an accurate channel for the mind.

3. What the speaker is remembered to have said. This is very obvious in seminary classes when tests are given.

4. What the hearer wants to hear. Listeners are prone to hear what they want to hear from a speaker.

5. What the hearer actually hears

6. What the hearer thinks he hears.

If all six are the same, then the message has gotten through accurately, otherwise there are problems caused by distortion.

One big problem in communication is that we use words to communicate. Words tend to obscure meaning and not clarify. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the 500 most used words in the English language have an average of 23 meanings each. The word “round” has 70 distinctly different meanings. Words are the main instrument to transmit ideas from one person to another, but they may have completely different meanings to the parties.

To avoid distortion in communication there are four steps to follow:

First, get an audience. Be sure the person is ready to hear you. Get his attention before
starting to tell him anything.

Second, build a bridge. The bridge should connect what you want to say to what he
wants to hear.

Third, use illustrations. Illustrations may be pictures or charts, or they may be word
pictures or stories.

Fourth, ask for action. Be sure the person you are communicating with knows what is
expected of him.

Distortion can also come by a difference in verbal and nonverbal communication. Communication is not only what we say, but also the way we say it, our personal appearance, our posture, our body movements, our gestures, our eye contact, our facial expressions, and even our dress. Everything about us communicates. We may say we are interested in what a person is saying, but if we sit and drum our fingers on the desk, it says we are bored and wish he would hurry up and leave.

Intro to Communication

God showed the importance of communication when He wanted to stop the progress on the Tower of Babel. He said, “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” (Genesis 11:7). A failure to communicate has caused a lot of other projects to fail. Without good communication, the leader will travel alone.

Definition of Communication

Communication is the process of arriving at an understanding between ourselves and other people concerning mutual needs and goals. It is the process we go through to convey understanding from one person or group to another. Communication in the church is defined as the transmission and reception of ideas and feelings for the establishment of mutual understanding, agreement, and a favorable
response.

Communication exists at five levels:
1. Cliché
2. Facts and information
3. Opinions and judgments
4. Feelings
5. Rebuke and affirmation

Christian leaders have three decisions to make that pose problems with communication: deciding who to tell, deciding how much to tell, and deciding how to get the communication through to the hearer. It is important to communicate as much information as is feasible to the followers in an organization, but sometimes there is information that needs to be limited, at least for a period of time. Some leaders choose to reveal very little information about problems in an organization. I think this reflects a lack of confidence and trust in subordinates. There are always things that should not be shouted from the rooftops, or put in the newspaper, but they can be told to important members of an organization. The lines in an organization chart reflect lines of authority and of communication. When a youth pastor comes from a staff meeting, he needs a clear understanding of what information he is to pass on to his workers and what should be limited to just the professional church staff. One of the tough decisions in communication is to decide what information to pass on.

Knowing how communication is passed helps one to decide just how to inform others. Communication has a communicator attempting to send a message through one or more channels, past a number of barriers, to a receiver. The channels are one or more of the senses (taste, touch, sight, sound, or smell). The barriers can include age, education, experience, prejudice, interest, environment, emotions, sex, skill, and many others. Feedback can let the communicator know that the message has been received correctly. Jesus used feedback in Matthew 13:51 when he asked His disciples, “Have you understood all these things?”

A breakdown in communications is probably one of the chief causes of failure in leadership. Communication must flow clearly in an organization from the top to the bottom and also from the bottom to the top. Official communication always follows the chain of command as revealed on the organizational chart. There is always a lot of informal communication that goes on outside of the formal organizational structure. Some of this we call gossip and rumors. Well-informed followers are going to do the best job. Companies today are spending millions of dollars to communicate with their employees, and to train managers how to communicate.