Effective Communication: Ask, don’t guess
I have two questions for you.
- How well do you REALLY understand what your spouse or kids think or feel?
- Is the answer you just gave based on clear, effective communication, or is it a guess based on past experience?
Take some time to deeply consider that last question. Maybe it would help if I asked it a different way: Do you truly know those closest to you because you’ve taken the time to investigate what is going on inside them (through questions)?
That’s the only way we get to know a person. Their thoughts and feelings are their own private, inner world, UNTIL they express them through words (verbal or written).
So if you want to REALLY know your spouse or your kids, you have to become a pro at communication. And much of effective communication comes through questions.
Becoming a pro at effective communication
Here’s a checklist of qualities that you’ll notice about people who practice effective communication:
- They don’t make assumptions… they ask questions.
- They aren’t content to guess what people are thinking for feeling… they ask questions.
- They don’t base their understanding of a person solely on information from the past… they ask questions.
Did you see the common thread? – They learn to ask questions.
But make sure you don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about interrogation-style questions. That approach will make people clam up even more because they don’t sense your concern or care for them.
What I AM talking about is the kind of questions that flow out of a genuine interest in the person, and a real desire to know and understand them. If you want to learn effective communication, you have to learn to ask good, interested questions.
Spouses can make huge mistakes in this
In my 20+ years of Pastoral counseling I’ve seen couple after couple learn this lesson the hard way. And sadly, many NEVER learn it (don’t be one of those couples, please!). Husbands and wives easily fall into a pattern of assuming they know what their spouse is thinking, instead of asking kind, thoughtful, interested questions.
When you fail to ask questions of your spouse you communicate some very damaging things:
- that you don’t care what they think or feel.
- that you are only interested in your own opinions and feelings.
- that they don’t really matter to you.
Do you really want to be communicating those kinds of things to your spouse? If not, you have to learn to ask good questions.
Parents can be the worst at this
Too often we parents make assumptions about what our children feel or think about an issue. It’s true that we probably know our kids better than anyone else, but that doesn’t mean that we know them as well as we could, or should. And it definitely doesn’t mean we can accurately predict what they will think or feel about a certain issue or situation.
There are some very amazing things that happen as you begin to ask your kids good questions:
- you show them that their perception of things matters to you (which shows them that you value them).
- you get a privileged glimpse into their soul
- you get to truly KNOW them, instead of just THINKING you know them.
Of course, you have to go about this differently with different ages of children… and you need to always be mindful of the need for instruction in the midst of your communication. You are the parent, who is called by God to guide your children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) and in learning the ways of the LORD (Deuteronomy 6:7).
So your end goal is not just to know how they feel or what they think, but to know how they feel and think SO THAT you can guide them with greater wisdom and direction.
Effective communication requires that you learn to ask good questions.