What did you say?!

August 19, 2009 — 2 Comments

Water-Cooler ConversationCommunication is such an important part of our lives. It has been said that where two people exist in close proximity, communication is taking place — whether or not words are ever exchanged. That’s because communication is more than words. It’s about those non-verbal factors, like facial expressions, body language, and eye contact.

Communication really is a powerful thing. And it can be positive or negative. As a church staff member, I have always enjoyed church-related jokes and communication bloopers. Take these for example:

  • “Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.”
  • “For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.”
  • “Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. there will be an ice cream social. All ladies giving milk will please come early.”

Yes, sometimes in spite of our best efforts, the words just don’t come out quite right. I remember a Seminary president talking in chapel one day about the off-campus centers. . .only he referred to them as “off-center campuses.” Hmmm. . .not exactly the same, is it?

One of my favorite children’s book series is that of Amelia Bedelia, the well-meaning housekeeper who simply took things way too literally. When asked to “put out the lights,” she actually unscrewed the bulbs and took them outside. When asked to separate the eggs, she placed one on the cabinet and one on the stove.

Parents have to be careful in communicating with children as well. . . especially young children. Sometimes they just hear things differently than we intend. During a recent furniture-shopping adventure, my eight-year-old son assured me that mom did not want a couch; “she wants a sexual,” he insisted. Wow, that one was pretty impossible not to laugh about. Perhaps it was his take on the discussion that made me more open to the sectional that now finds its home in our living room.

It is so important to give serious consideration not only to our words but also to our non-verbal and para-verbal communication (elements such as tone, rate of speech, and cadence). In fact, experts explain that only about seven percent of communication actually comes from the words themselves! That’s precisely why we must all be especially careful when communicating via e-mail and text messages. Tone is difficult to accurately interpret, and those silly little emoticons are only marginally helpful!

As you go through this week, I encourage you to be very intentional about the way you communicate with others. Listen for mixed messages. Pay attention to your body language and tone of voice. And choose your words carefully. Don’t expect people to be able to read your mind!

With a little extra effort, you can experience the joy that comes from clear and consistent communication.

2 responses to What did you say?!


    Great post. I think, in marriage especially, that we not only need to pay attention to the non-verbals that we see then and now, but we should also consider the context of the listener’s last ____ minutes or hours. It may affect the TIMING of our communication, or the PLANNING for it (if it is a serious discussion).

    A person who has been srtuggling to balance the budget will have “finances” and “problems” running in background. We need to allow time to shift gears BEFORE communicating, or we need to help them shift the gears.

    YMMV, though!


    First, it was about the “tongue”….NOW, it’s about all the rest of our parts….hmmmmmmm….I BELIEVE you are trying to “tell us something.”

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