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Blocks To Effective Communication

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“Can You Hear Me Now?”

Blocks To Effective Communication

       “Can you hear me now?”  If you can’t hear or understand me, communication is impossible!

       Communication is the oil that lubricates the engine of relationships, without it everything grinds to a halt.

       Unresolved conflict, not conflict, acts like termites in a relationship.  Quietly, and imperceptibly, it can bring down great oaks!

       We are working on a series of messages entitled “Can You Hear Me Now?”  We are working on effective communication, active listening, and conflict resolution.  These skills can help us develop meaningful relationships, whether we believe in them or not.  We can no longer wait until our hearts get right.  Let’s take effective action, while we’re repenting and waiting on God.

       In addition, I’m working to influence our community to be a positive community full of positive people, rather than a negative community that is populated by negative, pessimistic people.  I recently received a book in the mail entitled Hard Optimism.  There is now scientific proof that optimism is a broad spectrum force for good in people’s lives.  “There’s a hot new field of research in the behavioral sciences.  It’s called positive psychology, and it’s proving that attitude profoundly affects performance.  Study after study spells out the benefits:  optimists get paid more, are healthier, win more elections, and live longer; plus they are better at dealing with uncertainty and change.”[1]  They have also found that optimism and pessimism are not on the same scale, but actually represent two different scales.  We must not only work on being optimistic, we must work to reduce negative thinking.  “Optimism,” from a biblical perspective, flows from and amounts to “hope.”  Hope is “the joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation,”[2] which is always a reason to be optimistic and positive!

       So, we are interested in better communication patterns and a conflict resolution model, so that we might facilitate a hopeful, optimistic, positive community.

(Listed are the Roman Numerals we’ve already covered.)






(A very ineffective mode of communication that is often misused, abused and defended is:)


“To communicate a message, make a statement.  To ask for a message, use a question.  Simplicity in speech is to state what should be stated, ask what needs to be asked, and to refuse to confuse the two.  When questions are used as concealed ways to make statements, or statements are made as concealed questions, nonconstructive confusion results.

The most frequently misused communication pattern is the question.  Questions can be clever, coercive, or concealed ways of either offering opinions or manipulating others.  Six of the most commonly used pseudo-questions are:

      The leading question:  ‘Don’t you feel that...?’  ‘Wouldn’t you rather...?’  This limits or restricts the range of possible responses and leads the witness down the primrose path to make an admission or commitment that the questioner wishes, not what the responder wants.

Q:    ‘Don’t you think that...?’

A:    ‘No, I don’t think that...If you think that, I invite you to say it by speaking for yourself.’

The punishing question:  ‘Why did you say (do, try) that?’  This punishes by seeking to arouse conflicts in the other or define the other person in such a way that infers there is inconsistency, contradiction or dishonesty between intention and action.

Q:    ‘Why did you do such a...?’

A:    ‘I’ll tell you what I want.”

The demanding question:  ‘When are you going to do something about...?’  This actually makes a demand or sneaks in a hidden command under the guise of an innocent request for innocuous information.

Q:    ‘When are you going to get started on...?’

A:    ‘Tell me when you want it.’

The dreaming question:

A:    ‘If you were in charge here, would you rather...?’

This asks for hypothetical answers.  The function is to criticize, to call a point of view impractical or irrelevant but to do it as a harmless fantasy.

Q:    ‘If you had the say around here, wouldn’t you...?’

A:    ‘I’d like to work with what is, now.’

The needling question:  ‘What are you waiting for?’  or ‘What did you mean by that?’  This multi-level question has a multiple choice of meanings:

(1)    Tell your meaning again, I’m listening.

(2)    What are you implying about me?

(3)    How dare you say that to me?

(4)    Can’t you speak simple English, you clod.

(5)    You’re attacking me.

The needling question has as many levels as the listener may choose and it has no one-level.  No matter which level the listener chooses to answer the questioner can say, ‘You misunderstood me.’

The setting-up question:  ‘Didn’t you once say that...?’  This maneuvers the other into a vulnerable position, ready for the hatchet.

Q:    ‘Isn’t it true that you once...?’

A:    ‘Ask me about the here and now, I’m present.’

       I can do with a lot fewer questions.  Especially those beginning with ‘Why.’  ‘Why’ questions are most often covert ways of attempted control.  I want to eliminate ‘why’ from my relationships.  I will ask ‘what’ and ‘how.’  These offer all the information I need to know to relate effectively.  ‘Why’ questions, evaluates, judges motives and intentions.  ‘What’ or ‘how’ deal with what is wanted in our relationship and how we can get it.

I want to give statements instead of asking questions.  Those questions which are simple requests for clarification or further information are useful.  But hit and run questions are double talk.  They are ways of making comments, criticisms, or attacks while avoiding full responsibility for what is said.  They are ways of giving multi-level messages that leave the listener with a multiple choice test with every interaction.  These, I can do without.

Love gives up the concealed weapons called questions and makes clear statement like:  I care about you.  I need you.  I want your help.  I want your respect.  Love is honestly open in conversation.  Love sets no traps.”[3]

(As I stated earlier, to achieve effective communication we must not only become aware of ineffective communication habits and seek to break them; we must seek to establish new communication habits.  Let’s look at an ineffective habit to break and an effective habit to cultivate under:)


“When on the receiving end of another’s anger, I want to hear the anger-messages the other gives to me to check out what I am picking up as a demand.  Careful listening can discern what the other is demanding, clarify it in clear statements, and lead to clean confrontation.  Then I have the choice of saying yes to the other’s demands or saying no.  I may feel angry in return, but I want to experience my anger with honest ‘I statements,’ not with explosive ‘you statements.’

Explosive anger is powerless to effect change in relationships.  It dissipates needed energies, stimulates increased negative feelings, irritates the other persons in the transaction and offers nothing but momentary discharge.  Vented anger may ventilate feelings and provide instant though temporary release for tortured emotions, but it does little for relationships.

Clearly expressed anger is something different.  Clear statements of anger feelings and angry demands can slice through emotional barriers or communications tangles and establish contact.  When angry, I want to give clear, simple ‘I messages.’  ‘You messages’ are most often attacks, criticisms, devaluations of the other person, labels, or ways of fixing blame.

       ‘I messages’ are honest, clear, confessional.  ‘I messages’ own my anger, my responsibility, my demands without placing blame.  Note the contrast between honest confession and distorted rejection.

       I Messages                           You Messages

       I am angry.                          You make me angry.

       I feel rejected.                        You’re judging and

                                                  rejecting me.

       I don’t like the                      You’re building a wall

         wall between us.                    between us.

       I don’t like blaming                You’re blaming everything

         or being blamed.                    on me.

       I want the freedom                 You’re trying to run my life.

         to say yes or no.                 

       I want respectful                    You’ve got to respect me

         friendship with you                or you’re not my friend.


(Now is the Day of Salvation!  Come to Jesus, Now!)


Call to Discipleship


[1] Price Prichett, Hard Optimism, McGraw-Hill, New York, New York, 2007, p. 9.

[2] Henry Joseph Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon.

[3] David Augsburger, Caring Enough To Confront, Regal Books, Ventura, California, 1973, Revised Edition, 1981 by Herald Press, pp. 30, 32.

[4] David Augsburger, Caring Enough To Confront, Regal Books, Ventura, California, 1973, Revised Edition, 1981 by Herald Press, pp. 40,41.

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