We just returned from a fun-filled visit with our daughter-in-law Sarah and our grandson Tucker. The days were filled with projects, laughter and food.
Tucker is about eighteen months old and wants to be in the middle of all conversations and whatever is going on. While he was a baby, Sarah spent time teaching Tucker baby sign language, so he could communicate some of his needs and desires.
Tucker learned to wave his hand up and down, which means I want something to drink. Think of the motion of moving a drink up and down. As he was playing with Papa, Tucker got thirsty. I was in the kitchen cooking, and Tucker and Papa came into the room. Tucker was standing by the refrigerator and began to rapidly pump his hand up and down. I waved back, assuming he was telling me, “hi!” Tucker kept pumping his arm, while displaying desperate eyes. Tucker knew what he meant, but we did not! What I interpreted him to say was not at all what he meant.
Later, I vaguely remembered that Sarah had mentioned that waving the hand up and down was sign for “drink.” I poured Tucker a drink, and he was happy beyond words as the water hit his lips! As I took time to think about it, I gained understanding of what Tucker was trying to say.
What Tucker and I had was a communication problem.
Too often we have a communication problem. This happens in marriages, friendships, relationships and church life. Like Tucker, someone is desperately trying to communicate something to us, and we interpret it as something else. I find this especially true on Facebook and other social media, but it also true in real life.
In my younger days, I quickly wrote people off when I disagreed with them. Over time, I realized that often I wasn’t really hearing what people were saying. I also realized that I had to be right! As I have matured, my goal is no longer to be right, but to listen to people, try to understand what they are actually saying, and even when I disagree, to say so in an agreeable manner. I am responsible for me.
Before we just write people off because we disagree, let’s take time to sit down and try to understand where each other is coming from. We don’t have to agree, but let’s hear each other out, who knows, like with Tucker, we all might win in the end.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. – George Bernard Shaw
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” – James 1:19