What do I know? Who else needs to know? Have I told them? And do they understand what I’ve told them? These four questions are key to good communication, and a breakdown on any one of them will see our conversations and messages being ineffective and returned to sender.
Sometimes it’s not that what we’re trying to say is intentionally false. We just know a great many things that aren’t so. We should have been more careful on the front-end in determining the veracity of our assertions and underlying assumptions.
Other times the message is spot-on, but it was delivered to the wrong person or people. They are on a strictly need-to-know basis, and they did not need to know this particular thing. Meanwhile, those who did need to know were missed because we were saying the right thing to the wrong people.
Finally, we may know what we know and have told who we needed to tell. But were we sufficiently clear? Did we include all the pertinent details and leave out the distractions that divert from the main theme of what they needed to hear?
A good principle of speech-making can apply to individual conversation as well. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, say the thing, then tell them what you’ve told them.
This isn’t to say we should be overly formal and pedantic, treating every chat like it needs to be perfectly practiced and academically delivered. But I think the principle still applies, and provides a clarifying rubric through which to examine ourselves and the things we say and hear with one another.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
The Proverb is true, and it should both sober and energize us to be intentional and disciplined with our conversation regarding what we know, who we tell, and whether they are understanding us.
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