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Hello, friends! Welcome to this Bible study lesson on "Keys to Good Communication." How we listen to others and what we say and don’t say can strengthen or damage our relationships. Thankfully the Bible records a number of keys that can help us understand others and be understood—which is the essence of good communication.

We hope these biblical communication keys will be helpful to you in improving your relationships. Please let us know if your have any questions or comments.

Lesson: Keys to Good Communication

Keys to Good CommunicationGod is the Great Communicator, and He has revealed many important communication principles in the Bible. By following these keys, we can strengthen our relationships and learn to think and act more like our loving Creator.

Esther 7 tells the dramatic story of the conversation in which Queen Esther saved her people:

"So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther's banquet. And while they were drinking wine that day, the king again asked her, 'Tell me what you want, Queen Esther. What is your request? I will give it to you, even if it is half the kingdom!'

"And so Queen Esther replied, 'If Your Majesty is pleased with me and wants to grant my request, my petition is that my life and the lives of my people will be spared. For my people and I have been sold to those who would kill, slaughter, and annihilate us. If we had only been sold as slaves, I could remain quiet, for that would have been a matter too trivial to warrant disturbing the king.'

"'Who would do such a thing?' King Xerxes demanded. 'Who would dare touch you?'

"Esther replied, 'This wicked Haman is our enemy'" (Esther 7:1-6, New Living Translation).

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What Keys to Good Communication Does the Bible Give?

What we say and how we listen to others is important to God. He warns us that "death and life are in the power of the tongue" and that we must give account of "every idle word" we speak (Proverbs 18:21; Matthew 12:36).

What summary principles for good communication and interpersonal relations did James record?

James 1:19
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath...

Many of the communication pitfalls that wreck relationships come from violating these three keys. We tend to be slow to listen but quick to speak our minds, and in the resulting confusion and selfishness we are very quick to get our feelings hurt and to get angry.

In this lesson we will focus on the first two points James made: being swift to hear and slow to speak.


Swift to Hear

What happens if we are quick to speak instead of quick to hear?

Proverbs 18:13
He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.

It's natural to think we know what other people want or need before they finish asking. And we generally assume that what we have to say is what the other person should really be interested in hearing. Listening skills are rarely taught and generally neglected.

"You've spent years learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training or education have you had that enables you to listen so that you really, deeply understand another human being from that individual's own frame of reference?" (Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, pp. 237-238).

We have to overcome this lack of training by focusing on the other person and forcing ourselves to try to understand his or her viewpoint before sharing our own.

What mind-set must we avoid in order to truly understand another person?

Proverbs 18:2
A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.

We all want to, and are taught to, express ourselves. But when our desire for self-expression keeps us from trying to really understand the other person, we are being foolish and selfish. This is the opposite of the attitude the apostle Paul encouraged: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3-4).

Tips for improving our listening include:


Slow to Speak

How did David ask God to help him with his communication?

Psalm 141:3, New Living Translation
Take control of what I say, O Lord, and keep my lips sealed.

Psalm 19:14, New Living Translation
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Obviously David didn't mean he wanted his lips permanently sewn shut. Though we can't keep our lips sealed at all times, we all want our words to be pleasing to God.

We can't get through life without communicating. In fact, Proverbs 10:19 clarifies that it is a "multitude of words" that generally causes the problem. We should avoid being overly talkative and garrulous. Also we must be very careful to think before we speak and to choose our words carefully. Whatever we say should be edifying and intended to reflect the nature of Christ and to glorify God.

Let's look at some of the keys God gives for good communication.

What should we choose to say?

Colossians 4:6
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Romans 12:14-15
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

God wants us to choose our words wisely. Blessings and praiseworthy information should predominate our conversations. Matthew Henry's Commentary on Colossians 4:6 explains, "Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, makes it savoury, and keeps it from corrupting."

What should be the tone of our talk?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

God's Spirit is the true source of our joy, and our reasonable response should be thankfulness. The apostle Paul regularly let people know he was thankful for them (1 Thessalonians 1:2), and we should follow his example.

What should we avoid saying?

Many destructive forms of communication, from profanity to gossip to offensive comments, are covered in our lesson "Communication Pitfalls."

How should we say what we say?

Proverbs 15:1-2
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.

Proverbs 25:11-12
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.

Ephesians 4:15
...but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ...

When we speak softly, kindly, wisely, truthfully and with love, we can defuse negative feelings and promote positive relationships.

Tips for improving our spoken communication include: