At some point we stopped talking to one another.
Communication has become a mesh of texting, social media posts, and emails—all of it one-way dialogue that doesn’t involve seeing a face or hearing a voice.
Gone are the days of eating meals together and hanging around the table long after the food has disappeared from our plates. Faded are the memories of stopping by a friend’s house just to say hello, or of picking up the phone on Sunday afternoon to call home to update Mom on the events of the week.
The forced isolation imposed by the coronavirus surely can be blamed for some of this. But honestly, if we sit and think about it, interpersonal communication—speaking face-to-face—had significantly diminished before March 2020. COVID-19 was perhaps the final nail in the coffin (though I hope not) for communicating in a manner that includes the heart.
Our society’s lack of communication perhaps has a correlation in the polarization we see in America today. We have allowed wedges of disagreement to become chasms between us. Instead of talking through disagreements, we passive-aggressively post on social media and text our friends about how awful the other person (or “side”) is.
Megan Rawlings boldly and unapologetically said, “As a Christian, if you’re correcting people publicly (including social media) before correcting in private . . . you ain’t doing it right!” Let’s start communicating right—the way God created us to communicate.
How to Communicate Right
When we communicate without hearing a voice, seeing a face, or holding a hand, we miss out on the majority of the conversation. When we hear a voice, the information we collect goes exponentially beyond merely the words we hear. We hear age, gender, emotion, temperament, and mood. All of these things combine to evoke an informed emotional response.
No one cries alone around me. When I hear sadness in the voice of someone I care about, I am naturally empathetic. Bridges between people are built when we laugh together, cry together, and debate important matters of life together. Those empathetic bridges lead to treasured relationships.
Let’s get back to rocking chairs, bonfires, long talks on the phone, and handwritten recipe cards. No more excuses. We can’t let COVID-19 stop us. What the world needs now is more conversation.
Pick up the phone. Carve out times to make a call instead of sending a text. Call for no reason other than to catch up. Leave a voice mail if your friend or relative does not answer.
Turn on the video. People care more about seeing our face than the dishes in our sink or the scrubby clothes we are wearing. Always choose to turn on the camera when using video chat.
Get together safely for a bonfire, hike, or driveway dinner. We can’t let the weather stop us! Ice fishing is a popular sport, and if people can find a way to fish on ice, we can surely find a safe way to spend time together with people God has placed in our life.
Talk and listen. Can it be any simpler than that? If we are mad at someone, we should talk to them. If we’re sad, we should talk to a person we trust. If we’re happy about something awesome that just happened, we should schedule a Zoom video call with our family. Stop telling social media about it. Turn off the TV. Stop bottling it up. Start talking.
George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
I think simply talking could resolve many significant differences between people today. We all are polarized and alone. If we started talking about what hurts, angers, and excites us, and what pleases God, we may just find a way out of this mess.
We have repeatedly heard it said, “Do not talk about politics and religion at social gatherings.” We are worried we will offend, or perhaps we just don’t want to deal with the drama.
But what if we did just the opposite? What if we talked about it, sharing what we believe in a more personal way? We must, of course, do so with a heart that seeks to understand. We must be slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19). I believe Jesus wants us to talk about the most important things in life around the dinner table, because that’s what he often did.
Having conversations with the people God put in our life is the pathway to reconciliation.
What Communicating Right Looks (and Sounds) Like
My father has always been a conversationalist. The safest place in my world as a child was to fall asleep on his chest listening to his voice. Politics? Social and racial injustice? Moral failure in the church? Family feuds? COVID-19? None of this has caused him to fall silent.
In the car on the way to work and on the couch after dinner—and everywhere in between—you will find him speaking with and listening to others. What CEO do you know who hands out his personal cell phone number to everyone and picks up the phone when they call? Doug Crozier. From watching him over these 38 years, I have figured out how he does it.
- He skips the fluff. He talks about what needs to be talked about. There might be a short opener about the weather or sports, but the conversation quickly moves on to the main thing.
- He listens. He seeks to understand in a practical, simple way. He is a White man, so he has no experience as a Black man (or as a woman). As a successful businessperson, he has no experience with missing a meal. He comes from a loving home and his two parents are still alive and married, so he has no experience with the tragedy of divorce or the loss of a parent. Instead of sitting and operating blindly from those privileged realities, he seeks to grow his understanding. This year he got in his car and made a trip across the country to safely visit with, speak with, and eat a meal with virtually every person he knows. He wanted to ask about what their lives are like. He wanted to see their faces and hear their voices and stories. And he wanted to pray together.
- He might disagree, but he seeks not to be disagreeable. He is not mean and does not seek to exclude those who disagree with him. Aside from matters involving Jesus, God, and the Bible, everything else is open for discussion.
- He invests in a cell phone plan with endless minutes.
I want to challenge everyone to talk about it. Whatever it is! Anything and everything (and especially the important things). Move beyond the gadgets and the forums and communicate in the most personal way possible, given your circumstances. Ask questions. Give honest answers. Let people into your world. Seek out conversations that bring real, lasting connection into your reality. Leave texting for quick and mundane communication (“I’ll be 5 minutes late” or “What’s so-and-so’s address?”). Leave social posts for family pictures—and be sure to include pets please (those are the best).
This article is sponsored by The Solomon Foundation—a church extension fund where a real, live person answers the phone. An organization whose leader publishes his cell phone because he wants people to call him: Douglas Crozier, (714) 271-5893.