Do you know someone who has something to say about everything? When you tell them about something you’ve experienced, they too experienced it, or they know someone else who experienced it and they feel compelled to share it. In doing so, they tend to diminish your experience. Then there’s the individual who interrupts you during your conversation with them because surely, what they have to say is more important than what you are saying. These are examples of poor communicators. Yet it’s interesting that most individuals who communicate this way don’t realize they are doing so.
Communication is the exchange of information between two or more persons or objects. Thus, communication between humans involves a sender (the one who sends the message) and a receiver (the one to whom the message is intended). However, if the receiver of the message decides to send a message of their own at the same time they are receiving one, then a communication breakdown occurs. In layman’s terms, if two or more people are talking at the same time, then they are talking ‘at’ each other instead of ‘to’ each other. Studies show that it’s difficult for humans to speak and listen at the same time. When they attempt to do so, something in the message gets missed or misconstrued.
It’s also difficult (if not impossible) to communicate with someone who has a closed mind. They cannot receive your message because they are holding strong to what they believe. That someone used to be me. I was a member of the same church from childhood to adulthood. I was taught that women should not teach or preach to men. As an adult, I was invited to attend service at a United Methodist Church. Well, guess what? The pastor was female! Before even giving her a chance, my brick walls went up and I didn’t hear a word that she preached. My friend who invited me tried to convince me that it was OK for women to preach to men, but I wasn’t having it. I refuted everything she tried to tell me until I heard her say, “it doesn’t matter what the package looks like as long as the message is in line with what the Bible says.” So, I decided to give this pastor another chance. I visited again the next Sunday and was blessed by her sermon. A few months later, I ended up joining the church.
Effective communication involves actively listening to the messages that are sent to us. This cannot be done if we are set in our ways and unwilling to listen to the viewpoints of others. It also cannot be done If we’re already processing a response before we receive the full message from someone else. Even if we don’t agree with others, it makes them feel validated if we hear them out. This means that while they are speaking, we should intentionally keep our mouths closed and our minds open. This is how we show others that they matter.