Sunday, June 16, 2013

Squeezing the Tube of Communication

I love my kids, but they drive me crazy sometimes. When they were little, I could always bank on the fact that their sink would be messy with toothpaste. When they squeezed the tube, toothpaste would invariably go everywhere. Why couldn't they just squeeze the toothpaste like I did?  After all, it's ridiculously easy.  Oh wait.  I used to get it all over the place, too.

The interesting thing about toothpaste is that once it comes out of the tube, there's no way to put it back inside. No matter how much you try, it won't go back in, and there's nothing you can do about it. And if you think deeper about this subject, our words are just like toothpaste. Once they come out, there's no going back. 

The reason toothpaste gets all over the place is because we don't take enough time to carefully squeeze the tube. Our words are the same. When we don't use caution or think through what we want to say, our words will get messy and offend others. 

So how can we clean up the messes that our mouths make?

Think through Emotions
Have you ever tried to put toothpaste on your toothbrush when you're in a ridiculous hurry. Chances are you're going to miss your toothbrush. Choosing words in the heat of the moment is no different. You must make sure that you calmly think through your emotions before choosing the words that you're going to say. Think before you speak.  

Use your Words Wisely
Toothpaste was designed to keep our teeth cleaned, not get our clothes dirty. By selecting words that help us focus on the problem and improve our situation, we use our words wisely. We build others up. We build trust. We build stronger lines of communication.  We keep our relationships in good standing. 

Brevity is Golden
Nothing is more annoying than someone that talks on and on and on. Brevity is the equivalent of putting just the right amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush. Too little and the job won't get done. Too many words, and everyone gets annoyed with you. Too many words is like having too much toothpaste. Get to the point!

Ensure Accuracy
Never in the history of the world have we had so many words to use.  The problem is that with so many words, there are so many different interpretations of what each word means. Take time to make sure that your words accurately describe what you are thinking and feeling. By making this effort, it is certain that communication will clear up any ambiguity.

My kids finally learned to squeeze the tube correctly. Their dexterity improved. Their patience grew, and most importantly, they remembered to clean up after themselves. They matured from their repeated practice. 

To become successful with the tube of communication, we, too, must get messy before we can learn to communicate clearly. Making mistakes improves our verbally dexterity, and cleaning up our own messes prepares us to be more effective communicators in the future. Communication is never easy, and it never will be, but with repeated practice, it can become a little easier every day. 

1 comment:

  1. Great metaphor--this would make a good video. I'll be thinking about this.