At the beginning of my mission, I think my least favorite part of missionary service was during the weekly planning session I would hold with my companion, specifically step number 13—companionship inventory. Preach My Gospel tells missionaries to “discuss any challenges that may be keeping your companionship from working in unity or from being obedient. Resolve conflicts.”
I struggled to communicate the things I wanted them to improve upon. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity for both of us to improve and become more unified, I would become incredibly guilty because I saw it as the time where I had to critique my companions.
No matter how I worded it, I felt like I was telling them, “You know what, you stink at *this*, so could you please step it up and change yourself so I don’t have to deal with this problem anymore?”
So why do we need to learn to communicate?
In a world where we become increasingly more attached to life in the digital realm, we may tend to forget how important it is to have real, civil, face-to-face conversations with those around us. We forget or never learn how to discuss issues kindly and openly.
Your ability to communicate will influence all aspects of your life—your relationship with your parents, siblings, spouse, or the person you are dating. It can affect your ability to understand and communicate needs in your career, church calling, etc.
How did Christ communicate?
As in everything we do, Christ is our example. His ability to communicate and teach is amazing. L. Lionel Kendrick once shared the following: (Yes this is long, but it’s SO good! Don’t skip this!)
May we be found communicating with each other in a manner in which the Savior would communicate. Christlike communications are expressed in tones of love rather than loudness. They are intended to be helpful rather than hurtful. They tend to bind us together rather than to drive us apart. They tend to build rather than to belittle.
Christlike communications are expressions of affection and not anger, truth and not fabrication, compassion and not contention, respect and not ridicule, counsel and not criticism, correction and not condemnation. They are spoken with clarity and not with confusion. They may be tender or they may be tough, but they must always be tempered.
The real challenge that we face in our communications with others is to condition our hearts to have Christlike feelings for all of Heavenly Father’s children. When we develop this concern for the condition of others, we then will communicate with them as the Savior would. We will then warm the hearts of those who may be suffering in silence. As we meet people with special needs along life’s way, we can then make their journey brighter by the things that we say.
This is what I didn’t understand as a new missionary. I was not being asked to criticize my companions, but to counsel with them. The longer I was on my mission, the more I came to understand this. Although this is still not something I excel at, I am definitely trying each day to improve my communication skills in order to have Christlike communications with those around me.
So what can YOU do to communicate better?
(Caveat: this is definitely not a comprehensive list. You should also pray and study the example of the Savior to understand what you can personally improve on.)
- Learn to listen. Everyone has problems. You might not be the only one who is struggling with something. Instead of unloading everything on your mind, make sure you take the time to listen to the thoughts and feelings of others.
- Talk face-to-face. There may be certain situations where this is not possible. However, whenever possible try to communicate outside of texting and email where your words can be misconstrued. Texting in moderation is fine, just don’t let your digital life replace real-world conversations and relationships.
- Be kind. As you have conversations with the people around you, look for opportunities to show love and uplift them. Be honest when sharing your feelings, but also remember to be “helpful rather than hurtful” as Elder Kendrick shared.