On good communication: About 18 years ago I hired someone to help me with writing projects. One of the questions I asked at the time was, “How do you feel about taking correction and making changes?” Tara, the candidate I was interviewing, responded that she assumed changes would be needed, and she expected she would need to make them.

That has proven true as we have worked together over the years. I talk through something I want her to write, and she periodically repeats back to me what she hears me saying: “So you want to write _______?” Sometimes I confirm it; sometimes I correct a misunderstanding; sometimes when I hear back what I said I realize it’s not what I meant after all so I rephrase. Having Tara periodically summarize what I’m saying helps me know whether she is tracking with me or not. In this way, the written draft I get back is closer to my meaning than if she had stayed silent and I assumed she understood me.

However, even with that process, good communication takes at least three cuts to get right. When I get back the first draft and read it, I sometimes realize that things may make sense in my mind, but not as much when I see them on paper. In those cases I need to find another way to express myself. In other cases, I want to see the ideas structured differently or I notice an emphasis that was not intentional and I want to balance it out. Back to revisions. Then by the third time around there are usually only minor revisions.

Communication between people in ministry is the same way, and often much harder when particularly sensitive or personal issues are being discussed. Yet the same rule applies: It often takes three cuts to get it right.

Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash