In coaching girls’ basketball, I had a lesson that discussed how communication was like dribbling, everyone must be able do it to play the game and the better one is, the more successful that person will be. The key point is that it’s a life lesson. Everyone needs to be able to communicate to be an active participant in life; but the better we are at that skill, the more we can achieve.
In my experience, the need for this lesson was prevalent in coaching girls, both basketball and soccer. Young girls tend to be meek and quiet, both on the field or court, as well as in the classroom and society. However, the lesson was not limited to coaching girls. I stressed open, vocal, and continuous communication with the high school football team; and that was challenging. Zone pass coverages require a player to communicate receivers’ routes so their teammates know who may be entering their zone. We also had a basic kickoff return that was highly effective if the kick returner would clearly and loudly say one word – ‘right’ or ‘left’, which often proved to be overly difficult.
In hindsight, I wish I would have been a more effective communicator when I was in high school and college. I had leadership positions presented to me, that although I felt I was successful, with better communication skills, I would have made a bigger impact. I wasn’t a natural communicator, nor a dribbler, which is why I played football and baseball. I needed to develop those skills. I have noted in previous blog posts the difference a Dale Carnegie course made in my life by developing those skills and the confidence that comes with a better skill set.
As with developing any skill, be it dribbling in basketball or building effective sales presentations, we must invest time and effort to build the communication blocks. My daughter has a well behaved, sweet, and loving rescue dog. Her dog was also born deaf. She struggled mightily when she first adopted Finley, but with time, hard work, and patience, her dog now knows about 50+ hand sign commands. She communicates better with her dog than most do with a hearing dog.
My success in business, fulfillment in parenting, and achievement in community involvement as a coach and volunteer have all been a result of building my communication skills. In addition to the skill development, which is a focus on doing, it has also been a result of an attitude adjustment and a sense of being communicative.
Being communicative is much more than verbal. It is an authentic and transparent ability to exchange thoughts and ideas with actions, behaviors, and non-verbal conduct such as body language. It builds off a foundation of trust and besides driving success, it is key to healthy marriages and families. Ronald Reagan has been labeled ‘the great communicator’ which he asserts was based on two things: “to be honest” in what you are saying, and “to be in touch with the audience.”
Pope John Paul II will be remembered as one of the greatest communicators and most influential figures of modern times. He was a man, strong in his principles, that exuded humble confidence and sought to build bridges. He connected in ways both moving and remarkably human. Beyond the words of his message being right and tested, he worked even harder to ensure his actions were equally as communicative.
The Apostle St. Paul was a skilled communicator in conveying information, truth, and guidance. Like President Reagan and Pope John Paul II, Paul took the time to learn about the people he was speaking to and understand them. He examined their idols and read their poets. He was able to connect outside of his culture; with the intellectual élite; and non-believers. He wanted to build a bridge to them. He used quotes from their writers and philosophers to convey the message of the Gospel. Paul met and debated face to face – in the synagogue, in the public square, and in the marketplace (Acts 17:16–17) with the same consistent, simple message whether he was speaking to a Roman soldier or to Caesar himself.
I find it ironic that in today’s world of dynamic and charismatic preachers, that Paul did not want to display these attributes. Doing so would have undermined the power of the message he was commissioned to proclaim. “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.” (1Cor1:17). In those days Paul was concerned that the faithfulness of some followers had more to do with their teacher’s rhetoric and eloquence.
This was one of my “in the works” blog posts for over a year until this past Pentecost Sunday when I heard a sermon that contrasted the Tower of Babel with Pentecost. In the Old Testament story from Genesis, about the Tower of Babel, we have a confusion of tongues, where God scattered the people to the four corners of the earth because language was being used to promote a human agenda that resulted disunity. Pentecost, from Acts in the New Testament, represents the reversing of Babel as tongues are understood, people will scatter to every corner of the earth to spread the Gospel, language was used to announce the mighty works of God and the result was unity.
Communication at its heart is a spiritual act, a communion with others. It is a required dynamic interaction within our relationships, organizations, and communities. It compels us to be mindful of ourselves and others, to allow ideas to be tested and point-of-views to be questioned. Our ability to grow is centered around our ability to communicate.