Communication

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

This photograph of someone else’s hands on a manual typewriter keyboard reminds me of my college days. My fingers slipping off the keys, getting stuck in between as I wrote a paper. If I made a mistake I would slip a little piece of paper with white out on one side between the offending key and paper and press the key again. It was a relatively slow, pains taking process. The typewriters we used in Journalism classes were IBM Selectrics. These ubiquitous preferred electronic office typewriters were much faster and easy to use. Also, they didn’t eat fingers. The third keyboard in my student life was a VDT (video display terminal). We used these keyboards attached to small monitors to download stories onto diskettes. Fast forward 40 years or so and the writing I do now is different, but still influenced and benefited by the analytical/critical skills I learned in school. Who, what, where, when, why, and how still often find their way into my writing. Something a favorite professor of mine used to say was, “Our job is not to tell readers what to think, but rather to tell them what to think about.” That puts the onus on us as communicators. After determining the topic/story, whether speaking with someone face to face, or writing, I still believe the ability to get a message across is one of the most important skills any of us can cultivate. If we aren’t careful though, comprehension can be the drowning victim in a flood of communication. Unfortunately, the age of social networking encourages worship of the podium and “like” addiction. It’s easy to fall into the trap of chasing applause from the same audience over and over again. Too often, the participants in platforms like Facebook foster an atmosphere of us vs. them instead of appealing to each other’s hearts and what we have in common.

Since today is Mother’s Day, you might be asking yourself what any of this talk about communication has to do with it. I’ve always believed the best communicators are great listeners first. Anyone with a loud voice can make a speech, but not everyone is a good listener, which is a hallmark of quality communicators. My mother was a wonderful listener. Looking back, I know she put as much or more effort into hearing than she did in being heard. This was one of her gifts to the world, and to the degree it is mine, she deserves much of the credit. As a Christian who believes the gospel message must take primacy in my life, I recognize that my words matter. I alone am responsible for them, both the ones I utter and the ones I choose to mull over and process.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
James 1:19 ESV

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29 ESV


“It is not the voice that commands the story; it is the ear.”
Italo Calvino

“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”
Truman Capote

Lord, inform what we say and write
to the exclusion of words
that tear down and divide.
Help us work the muscle
between our ears
to devote more attention to what we hear.
Focus our discernment
toward what you say
through your word
and our brothers and sisters today.
Then if reconciliation and peace
are worth being preached
like the song says, “let it begin with me.”


© Joel Tipple 5/10/2020






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