My prize possession as a boy was a Sting-Ray bicycle. Not only was my bike a source of pleasure and fun, but it was necessary equipment to my job as a paper carrier.
I was careful to maintain my bike, and I paid special attention to keeping the chain tight. With a taut chain, I could touch the pedal and immediately set the bicycle in motion. I knew right away when I needed to adjust the chain because it would slip while I was pedaling. I’d have to stop and remove a link to restore my bicycle’s responsiveness.
Effective communication is similar to a tight bicycle chain. It has tremendous ability to propel forward motion. Tight communication can ensure progress, while sloppy communication can bring incredible frustration—like spinning your pedals while the bike stands still. Communication can build a marriage, church, ministry, business, or friendship. And a lack of it can render otherwise skilled teams ineffective or at odds.
Communication is a two-way street. Galatians 6:6 instructs, “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.” In context, this verse refers to communicating financially with those who teach God’s Word in the church, but in a larger application, it reminds us that we should be careful to reciprocate communication to those who communicate to us.
Following are five “links” in the chain of effective communication:
1. Communicate Early
Waiting until the last minute to deliver necessary information is like waiting to tighten your bicycle chain until you’re halfway up a steep hill. When the slippage in the chain begins to occur, you will slide backward before you can stop to fix the problem. And when you can finally resume forward motion, you will have lost your previously gained momentum.
When something is starting to unravel that someone else is counting on you to do, communicate! It is far better to tell your leader, “I know you are expecting this project completed by next month, but I’m slipping a bit and need help to finish,” than to simply not meet the deadline. Sometimes people-pleasers want so much to gain approval that they over commit themselves and are unable to deliver on their promises or the expectations they allowed to grow. A person who is skilled in communication will rarely surprise those to whom they are responsible to communicate.
2. Communicate Clearly
Clarity in communication is a must-have skill for anyone who serves or works with others. Even the best of intentions to communicate do little good if the communication is garbled or unintelligible. Work constantly on your clarity, and ask for confirmation that you’re being understood.
Teachers should tell their students exactly how they can improve. Employers should tell their employees specifically what is expected. Husbands and wives should communicate to each other with detail. Team members should communicate to their leaders in precise terms.
3. Communicate Often
Don’t wait to maintenance your relationship or project with communication until there is slippage in progress. Just as a bicycle will operate longer and more efficiently with regular oiling and proper care, so a relationship will flourish with ongoing communication. Without regular communication, everybody isn’t on the same page, and nobody really knows where others are at on a project or goal.
4. Communicate Visually
Great teachers have mastered this facet of communication. A picture, graph, chart, or even a gesture can augment verbal communication and drive the point home. Look for ways to supplement verbal communication with visuals.
5. Communicate Kindly
Many aspects of our lives would be simpler if we would learn to season our speech with kindness. Ephesians 4:15 admonishes us to speak the truth in love. This is especially needful in situations when the truth could be hard to receive. Make an art of sprinkling sugar in with correction.
Communication takes place in many forms—verbal, touch, voice tone, body language, through the eyes—and all forms should work in harmony. For example, we can say kind words but communicate frustration or disgust through our voice and eyes. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you His sensitivity in each method of communication.
A bicycle without a chain is little good. Even if it has a shiny frame and perfectly pressured tires, it won’t go anywhere. It might have fancy extras—a headlight, mirror, and horn—but without a chain, it’s going nowhere. Communication is likewise vital to the forward motion of ministry and relationships.
Skilled, effective communicators have tremendous potential to encourage progress in ministry and growth in relationships. How can you improve your communication skills?