26 October 2012

Afternoon Thoughts-Careful Communications - 1:

Have you ever thought of Jesus as the master communicator? The Gospel of John said he is the "Word made flesh" and the Book of Hebrews says that in these times God has "spoken to us through his Son". Jesus communicates first and foremost not in what he says, but what he does and who he is. However, there is also much to learn from Jesus as we see and hear him communicating with people.

The principles of good communication are evident in his life. The first principle is that he asks questions rather more than he gives answers. In our own communications it is so easy for us to barge in and tell people what to do or tell people what to think. We think we know the solution and we want to get people to follow through. It usually backfires.

Instead of telling people what to do why not ask them questions? Questions engage others in the quest for truth. A good question is a quest. It's a journey to a destination which we go on with the other person. Let's say we need the other person to get a job done. Isn't it softer and better and kinder to ask them a question about what needs doing? They may then see it for themselves and get involved in the problem at hand and find their own solution and work with us a team to solve the problem.

When we ask questions rather than state answers the person we're communicating with is less likely to react negatively to us because we are not coming across as a know it all or as 'the boss'. When we ask questions we empower the other person and enable them to engage with the problem in a responsible and thoughtful way. A question helps us develop a relationship with that other person on an equal footing rather than lording it over them.

Asking questions pays dividends for the person asking the question. How often have we barged in with the solution--giving orders only to find that we didn't have all the information or we had made a wrong decision hastily or we were not aware of the other person's point of view or situation. Then we're embarrassed. We have to back track. We look foolish. If we ask questions, on the other hand, we allow ourselves some leeway. We are in an open ended situation where we can look and learn together with the other person with whom we are communicating.

Jesus asked questions all the time. When the rich young ruler came to him asking what he had to do to have eternal life Jesus replied with a question which engaged the young man and got him involved. This communication principle works with everyone! Try it out on your teenagers or even your little children! Instead of giving them orders get them involved in the discussion by posing a question.

Use this technique when there is a tense relationship. It's amazing how asking a question will disarm the person who is feeling aggressive or angry. The question allows everyone to step back from the high emotions and think things through. A question neutralizes the situation immediately.

Finally, ask yourself questions. Be curious and develop an enquiring mind. Ask yourself why you feel as you do. Examine your conscience regularly by asking yourself questions. Ask why you behave as you do and respond to others as you do. As you ask yourself questions, ask God questions too. In your prayers ask why things have happened the way they have. Ask for answers and look for the way forward. It's amazing how asking the right questions will eventually help you find the right answers.

Our communications with others inevitably reflect our relationship with God. Are you set in your ways and expect God to be set in his ways? Ask more questions and your life with others and your life with God will open up and blossom in unexpected ways.
(Fr Longenecker:here)

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