At best, communication can be very difficult—at worst, disastrous. Just because I have spoken doesn’t guarantee I have communicated. To communicate effectively means the listener heard and understood my message as I meant it to be. True, effective communication is much more than words, but words are central to any message we desire to share. Used poorly, words can confuse and mislead. Used wisely, they can move much more than mountains. They can move people and nations.
With words we can make some people laugh, others cry. We can inspire, motivate, and encourage some; others we can aggravate, discourage, or shame. We can move some to love us, others to hate us. With words we can persuade some to perform noble deeds of kindness, others, if we are so inclined, to heinous deeds of evil. Such is the power of words.
Napoleon once said, “There are two powers in the world: the sword and the pen, and, in the end, the former is always conquered by the latter.” And Benjamin Franklin, referring to removable type said, “Give me twenty-six lead soldiers, and I’ll conquer the world.”
Recall the words of Winston Churchill during World War II when England was on the brink of collapse. Invasion by Germany seemed imminent. Britain had lost many of its warships and forty per cent of its bomber strength. Arms and equipment were gravely depleted. Famine was threatening. When all seemed lost, Churchill inspired the British people with his immortal words: “We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches; we shall fight in the fields; we shall fight in the streets; we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.”
Think, too, of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King who impacted their worlds with their words, and Hitler who, through his words, captured the leadership of Germany and plunged much of the world into chaos of catastrophic proportions.
And consider the fact that God himself uses words to communicate spiritual truth to mankind. As the Bible says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
Used sincerely, words hold the master key to all effective leading, teaching, and relationships—especially family relationships which rise or fall largely on the basis of how well or otherwise, family members communicate.
Fortunately, we don’t have to be gifted orators to communicate effectively. Mostly, we just need to use simple words and be genuine, sincere and authentic.
When seeking to communicate an important message, it can also help to use what counsellors Garry Smalley and John Trent call ‘emotional word pictures’. Let’s face it; without emotion, persuasion bores us to tears. As important as logic is, it doesn’t move us. We make decisions not so much with our heads and what we know, but primarily with our hearts and how we feel.
Logic may tell us what to do, but emotion is what moves us to do it. Using emotional word pictures moves people emotionally and gets them to act—while avoiding sticky emotionalism.
Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill used this method to inspire their countries in times of great threat as did Hitler to warp ‘the soul of his nation’. Jesus did, too, to teach God’s message. He spoke to people in parables or stories and the “common people heard him gladly”.
For example, Jesus likened God’s Word to seed that was sown by a farmer. Some fell by the wayside and the birds quickly found and ate it. Some fell on stony ground which took root and began to grow for a while but quickly withered in the hot sun. Other seed fell among thorns and started to grow but soon got choked out and died, and some fell on good soil and produced a healthy crop.
Jesus was showing that the wayside soil represents those people who totally ignore God’s Word. The stony soil spoke of those who listened to God’s Word for a while but soon forgot it. The thorny soil speaks of those who accept God’s Word and begin to trust and serve him but the cares and interests of this life choke out God’s message. And the good soil represents those who accept God’s Word and live by its guidelines.
So if you want to get an important message across, use emotional word pictures; that is, tell it through a story, an illustration, or do as Jesus did, create a parable of your own.
Another excellent rule for the effective use of words is, as the Bible says, to “speak the truth in love”. That is, when we speak we need to be certain that we aren’t being judgemental, critical, unkind, blaming others for our reactions, or dumping our unresolved issues onto other people —as perfectionists or hostile people often do. When we express negative emotions, we need to use responsible ‘I’ messages and not condemning ‘you’ messages. That is, we need to say, I feel hurt, or I feel angry rather than, You hurt me, or You make me mad. Doing this can transform your relationships.
It is also important to tell the people we work or mix with, and especially those we care about, how we feel towards them. We all need lots of love and appreciation expressed to encourage us. Say it in person. Use the telephone. Send a note or card. Do it often and your own life will be greatly enriched and empowered.
God tells us how he feels towards us. We need to do the same for him. He said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” And note his loving invitation, “Come to me, all you who are wary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Indeed, as the Bible says, “Words aptly spoken are like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Why not give someone you care about an ‘apple of gold’ today?
By: Dick Innes
Source: Encounter, June 1992