We usually think of good communication skills as the ability to effectively formulate ideas into words. But the finest art of communication is not the ability to express ideas; it is the ability to understand the person with whom one is speaking.
The book of Proverbs speaks to this issue with poignancy. “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (Prov. 18:2). How many times have you been a fool in conversation? How many conversations with your children have not focused on understanding them and helping them express their thoughts and ideas? If you are like me, sometimes you may not really be interested in their thoughts and ideas; you simply have something to say. Proverbs 18:2 says that is the communication goal of the fool.
There may be times when you are afraid or unwilling to understand the things your children are thinking. Perhaps you do not want to face the difficult issues that true understanding would bring to the surface. Sometimes you may be afraid that if you understood this child better you would have to change some of your expectations and you do not want to change.
I had a fool’s conversation one night with my son. I went to his room before bed to speak with him. I had something on my chest that I wanted to express. I, frankly, was not interested in understanding him; I wanted him to understand me. I did not say anything unkind or abusive. When I had finished I told him that I was glad we had this chance to talk together. I prayed for him and headed off to bed.
A few minutes later there was a knock on our bedroom door.
“Dad, are you guys still up?”
“Yes, come in, what’s up?”
“Dad, when you left my room you said you were happy we had talked together. I just wanted to mention that I didn’t say anything.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I guess I had a good talk, you had a good listen. If I had let you say something, what would you have said?”
“I don’t know; I just wanted to tell you that I didn’t say anything.” There is a subtext here. The subtext is, “If you really want to know what I would have said, you are going to have to pursue me.”
I was a fool that night. I could have said everything I wanted to say in the context of asking my son good questions and drawing him out. I could have delighted in understanding him rather than only in airing my own opinions.
Why is that so important?
When you delight in understanding your children you are expressing your love for them. You are saying to them, “I love you enough to care what you think. I love you enough to want to understand you. I love you enough to ask good questions.”
Instructing a Child’s Heart