Communication is a Two-Way Street

Sometimes what you say and what other people hear can be two very different things.

Maybe you can relate to a young mother from Ohio who wanted her family to be a beacon of hope during the COVID lockdown. She handed chalk to her two boys – ages six and eight – and asked them to write messages on the driveway. She wanted delivery drivers and passersby to be greeted with encouragement and good cheer. Later, when she checked on her kids’ progress, she discovered boys had covered the driveway and sidewalks with messages like, “Stay away!”  “Do not enter!” and “Get lost!”

Misunderstandings like that happen a lot in marriage, too. My wife once asked me to save money by not buying her a gift for her birthday. Not only did I not buy her a birthday gift, I didn’t do anything to celebrate her. I knew how badly I had misunderstood her when she said, “Jim, when I told you not to buy me a gift, I didn’t mean, don’t think about me at all.”

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Boy is he right. What we say and what other people hear are often two very different things. The key is to remember that whether you’re the one speaking or the one listening, effective communication is a two-way street. The person speaking must clearly communicate his or her ideas, and the person listening must hear not just what is said but what is meant.

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