Communication is the foundation of all our relationships.
The connections we have with our spouses, our families, our communities, and even with God are all built on the basis of healthy communication skills.
But it’s not always easy — far from it. So often, we can fall short of the soft, reserved, and graceful style of communication that is repeatedly encouraged throughout the Bible.
And when we do, we put ourselves at risk of damaging the foundation of our own emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
In this article, we’ll look around the scriptures and beyond to try and figure out why effective communication is so integral. We’ll also look at the practical things we can do to become the best communicators possible.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21).
You probably don’t need to turn to the scriptures to truly appreciate why communication is so important, but it helps.
Now, then, and forevermore — how we express our ideas and the ways we listen to others have vast power and importance in our relationships.
To talk and to hear is one thing, but to express and to listen is another.
When we fail to communicate effectively, we can undermine the trust and wellness of our most intimate relationships.
Arguments will happen because of things unsaid. Confusion will occur from obscure truths. Like a flower without water, relationships will slowly wane without the lifeline of good communication until it’s too late.
Statistics reveal that the divorce rate in the U.S. as of 2019 was as high as 44%. If there was ever a clear sign that communication was not being taken seriously enough, there it is.
So why does communication prove to be so difficult? There are a few key factors.
Communication is too often understood to mean the same as ‘talking.’
Ignoring for a moment that there is a whole language of communication in the nonverbal realm (such as body language), the other half of communication — listening — is often disregarded.
Listening and especially 'active listening' are critical features of good communication that we often don’t take seriously enough.
There is also the challenge of different communication styles and norms.
In our wonderfully diverse world, it can be hard to effectively cross cultural, societal, and situational boundaries in order to truly appreciate another person’s point of view. You only need to look as far as our current political climate to get a sense of this challenge.
Plus, some things are just hard to talk about. Events in life like loss and grief, betrayal, and renewed spiritual paths can be difficult to openly discuss without showing emotional vulnerability.
Fortunately, there are strategies to help us all become better at handling communication issues.
Let’s take a look at some ways you can improve communication in your relationships:
Colossians 3:9 offers us a list of worldly sins that we as Christians must be wary of.
One of them is lying.
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9).
When we lie, we plant false narratives in other people’s perceptions. This doesn't agree with reality, and as a result, it will inevitably cause conflict and miscommunication. However, speaking the truth as you know it has the opposite effect.
If you want to extract the most value out of your communication with someone, embrace the truth in all its forms.
You will often hear that as much as 90% of communication is transmitted nonverbally — through facial expressions and body language.
This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the point still stands that a large part (and perhaps even the majority) of our thoughts and feelings are expressed without words.
This means you should aim to understand how people can communicate through body language and physical expressions.
As we mentioned, one of the challenges of communication is being honest.
Our bodies can sometimes tell a more accurate story than our words, which makes learning the language of movement that much more important.
Like mundane chores we have to perform around the house, no one wants to do things that we know are going to be hard work.
The same is true of communication. It’s unpleasant to have to fire someone, break up with a partner, or leave a business relationship.
But avoiding what we know we must do is counterproductive. Difficult and painful conversations are more productive than no conversations at all.
When we truly feel heard, we understand that the other person is making a real effort not to simply hear our words as they fall out of our mouths but to listen and understand them.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
Listening, often greatly ignored, makes up at least half of what it means to communicate well in a healthy relationship. If you are to speak, you need to also be equally prepared to listen.
Being open and vulnerable can be worrisome. You stand to get hurt by putting your feelings on the table — this is especially true in romantic relationships.
But if you want to heal a loving union, you have to show your partner that there is nothing within you that you are hiding.
“The truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Don’t disguise your true emotions for the sake of pride. Vulnerability opens new bridges of understanding where you can continue on your journey of healing.
Unfortunately, communication has become more complicated as the tools we use to carry it out have developed.
It should come as no surprise, though, that the principles of high-quality communication have remained the same and are exemplified in the Bible.
Truth, openness, grace, bravery, and humility comprise everything you need to communicate effectively.