Communication is at the heart of life and relationships. The better we communicate, the more likely we are to be successful and, quite frankly, to feel fulfilled. It doesn’t take a PhD to know that those statements are simply true. We could probably come up with an example that breaks that mold, but how many times have we heard of a disagreement that boiled down to miscommunication? How many times are marriages on the rocks because they can’t seem to communicate or communication broke down? How many times are mistakes made on a jobsite because communication was lacking? How many times even in a church setting does poor communication lead to hurt feelings and even divisions? It is just a reality that exists in all facets of life.
There is a lot of research in the field of communications that could help us communicate better, wiser, and with more effectiveness. However, there are some fundamental things that we need to do if we are going to grow in our communication with others. Here they are: asking questions and listening to the other person. This is something that Jesus understood even as a twelve-year-old boy. “Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46 NKJV). There are a lot of examples that Jesus provides us to live a life more successfully, and here is one of those in an overlooked but powerful way – He asked questions, and he listened! We can’t still calm storms, raise the dead, or know the future, but we can ask questions and we can listen!
Asking Questions: A Path to Understanding
I find it remarkable that the scholars were amazed by Jesus because of the questions he asked. We tend to fall victim to the notion that communication is best found in our ability to showcase our knowledge. He not only asked questions, but he listened to the answers. Not simply to be polite or to wait his turn to talk, but because he was genuinely there to listen. Jesus didn’t have insecurities leading him to believe he needed to dominate conversations or prove his worth through endless talking. His humility and curiosity allowed him to engage in meaningful dialogues where both his questions and his attentive listening demonstrated a profound respect for others.
Asking questions serves multiple purposes in effective communication. Firstly, questions show your interest in the topic at hand and the person you’re conversing with. They signal that you’re not just waiting to speak, but rather actively seeking to understand and learn from the other person’s perspective. Secondly, questions open doors to deeper discussions. They encourage the other person to elaborate on their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, allowing you to gain insights that you might not have acquired through assumptions or monologues. Moreover, thoughtful questions can guide the conversation in a constructive direction, enabling you to explore specific areas of interest and keeping the dialogue focused and engaging.
The Art of Listening: Beyond Hearing Words
Equally vital in the realm of communication is the art of listening. Listening isn’t merely hearing words; it’s understanding, processing, and empathizing with the message being conveyed. Jesus exemplified this aspect by immersing himself in the teachings of the temple’s scholars and absorbing their wisdom. Effective listening requires setting aside personal biases, distractions, and the impulse to formulate responses while the other person is speaking. It entails giving your full attention to the speaker, acknowledging their feelings, and providing verbal and nonverbal cues that you’re engaged in the conversation.
Jesus’ ability to ask questions and genuinely listen allowed him to connect with people on a profound level. His interactions weren’t surface-level exchanges but rather transformative encounters that touched the hearts and minds of those he engaged with. This approach, rooted in humility and a genuine desire to understand, is a cornerstone of effective communication that transcends time and cultural boundaries.
Applying Timeless Wisdom in the Modern World
In our modern world, where information flows rapidly and attention spans are shrinking, the principles of asking questions and listening attentively remain as relevant as ever. Whether in personal relationships, professional settings, or broader societal discourse, the power of communication lies not in asserting dominance but in fostering understanding, empathy, and cooperation. So, as we navigate the complexities of life, let us remember the age-old wisdom that Jesus demonstrated – the wisdom of asking, listening, and connecting in ways that truly enrich our lives and relationships. By doing so, we can hope to bridge gaps, overcome conflicts, and create a more harmonious world through the simple yet profound act of effective communication.