Have you ever stopped to think about all the different ways that we communicate? It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that communication is limited to mere words. But is that all there is to it?
Oh, to be sure, words, both written and spoken, are a primary method of communication, but what about the other ways we communicate?
The non-verbal communication of a smile or eye contact…
The heartfelt communication of trying to learn sign language so you do not have to speak to someone through an interpreter…
The sharing of your heart through photography or drawing or painting…
Music that speaks when words just seem to fail…
Communication is all around us. In everything and anything we do, we are connecting and conversing with others. But how do you take the meaningless noise out of communication and really start to connect with someone else? How do you create an authentic, heartfelt connection through your communication?
Intentional. A focused attempt or effort. Something that is done with purpose. The word ‘intentional’ can feel very intimidating and weighty, can’t it? Like a huge responsibility is sitting on your shoulders and you’re not sure if you can bear up under the weight of it.
It’s hard to be intentional, isn’t it?
And yet, when other people take the time to be intentional with you, when they choose to focus on you, to make an effort to communicate and connect with you, there is something about it that just speaks to your soul. There is something special in receiving that intentional communication. Something telling you in more than words that you are worth something. That you are worth the time, energy, and effort of another. That you are valued and your friendship is treasured.
So why does this concept of being intentional still seem too hard to grasp? Why is it so hard to wrap your head around and really grab onto a definition of what it looks like in everyday life? Let’s see if we can break it down a little bit more.
Intentional does not always mean intense. Often times when you hear the phrase ‘be intentional’ the image of being laser-focused 100% of the time comes to mind. Being that focused for long chunks of time is simply intense! Intentional does not always mean intense.
Intentional simply means doing something with purpose. Making a choice to connect with someone else and then following through on the choice you made. It is not waiting for things to happen to you, not waiting for others to connect with you, but reaching out and taking that first step to connect with others.
Being intentional, then, is making a decision to do something and – here’s the key – following through on what you decided to do.
Be Authentically You
‘You do you.’ ‘Be real.’ ‘Be authentic.’ These phrases are thrown around a lot these days, but what do they really mean?
Sometimes this question can be really hard to answer if you do not first know who you are. Are you an extrovert? Don’t try to be an introvert!
Are you an introvert? Don’t try to be an extrovert!
Are you naturally communicative and can carry on a conversation with anyone you meet? Don’t try to hide that! Embrace it!
Are you naturally shy and tend to think through what you want to say before saying it? Don’t try to change that!
Are you better at speaking than putting words on paper? Are you better at writing than speaking? Is communicating with words hard, but you can create an epic piece of music that people connect with? Do you see what others miss when you take photos so your photography speaks to other people?
We are all born with different gifts and talents, sometimes called natural giftings. It is when you learn to lean into your gifting that you are able to strengthen your natural talents. To make them stronger. To enhance the gifts you already have.
Don’t deny your gifts. Don’t deny who you are. Take some time and figure out who you are, how you are wired and work with your gifts, not against them.
Trying to be someone or something you are not will only end in pain, frustration, and burnout. Don’t make it your goal to deny your personality. Don’t try to be someone you are not wired to be. Learn how you are wired and work with your strengths, enhancing them and making them stronger.
But even when you’re working within your gifting and your natural personality, how do you create that authentic, heartfelt communication with others? What are ways you can communicate?
Spoken communication is probably the easiest form of communication to grasp! And yet, it can take many different forms.
It could be standing on a stage and giving a presentation to tens or hundreds or even thousands of people.
It could be recording a podcast or an audio message for people to hear.
It could be reciting the lyrics to a song.
But what about in everyday life? Sure, speaking in front of a crowd is great for some people (while it terrifies others!). Sure, podcasting is great, but when it comes to the day-in and day-out reality of life, what does spoken communication look like?
It looks like talking with other people, both inside and outside of your home. Choosing to put away distractions and speak out loud to others. Choosing to turn off your phone, to turn off other screens and prioritize spoken conversation. Choosing to not simply text someone but to pick up the phone and have a voice to voice conversation with them.
It looks like making the effort to get together for coffee with a good friend, talking and laughing, not necessarily having an agenda, but just being okay with being you and letting the conversation flow wherever it needs to go. Sharing your heart with a good friend you know will listen and care.
It looks like getting together with a big group of friends and talking and laughing and sharing a meal and connecting with each other. Sharing both the good and the bad.
Above all, it is being you. Being real. Not pretending to be someone or something you are not. Allowing others to see you and get to know you for the real you.
Pick Up Your Pen (Or Your Keyboard)
Have you ever read a book that just stuck with you? One you know even as you closed the back cover that you will never be able to forget? One you know you will come back to time and time again?
Have you ever read a short story or an article or a blog post that just resonated with you? Something in the topic it addressed struck a chord deep within you, highlighting an area you knew needed to be addressed? Perhaps it challenged you on something or helped create that “lightbulb” moment when something you had been struggling with went from a muddled mess to a clear action path.
Have you ever had a note arrive in the mail on just the right day? A note someone had taken the time to write and send to you? Perhaps it was a beautiful card they purchased and added a heartfelt note on the side. Perhaps it was a hand-crafted card containing a message, written purposefully for you. Perhaps it was just a piece of paper with a few lines letting you know someone is thinking about you.
Have you ever gotten a text at just the right moment? A text to let you know someone else is thinking about you? A text reminding you that you are not alone? A text, no matter what it might say, reminding you that someone cares about you?
All of these are methods of written communication! Oh, it’s easy to think of writing a book or an article or a blog post as written communication, but even the letters, the thoughtful notes, yes even super-quick notes and text messages, are ways you can communicate in written form.
You see, when it comes to communicating in writing, it’s less about the exact form that it takes. It’s not about how many words you write or how eloquently they come out. It’s all about the message. It’s all about the heart behind the words. It’s all about the fact that someone made a decision to send you a message and followed through on their decision to connect with you. It’s all about the intent of the writer.
On top of that, people can tell if you’re genuine in what you say or if you’re just saying something because you “should.” When you communicate in writing, don’t make it about what you “should” or “should not” say. Don’t worry about what is exactly right or exactly wrong, simply write from your heart.
That simple act alone will carry so much weight to the person you’re reaching. When you write from your heart, it is incredible to see how your words have the power to touch and impact their heart.
Simple Gestures Carry Big Meanings
Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.AA Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
“Pooh!” He whispered.
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
Communication is so much more than spoken words or written words. Communication comes through not only what you say, but what you don’t say. It comes through your actions, your gestures, your mannerisms, your eye contact, and your focus or lack of focus.
It is listening when others are talking. Not thinking about your response and crafting a reply as they talk, but really focusing on what they are saying. Intentionally, purposefully choosing to put them ahead of you by simply listening with focus.
It’s getting down on a child’s level when they are trying to tell you something.
It’s reaching out to hold your child’s hand when they come and stand by you, just wanting to be near you.
It’s looking someone in the eye when they are talking. Giving someone else your full attention and not allowing yourself to be distracted by 100 other things while you are having a conversation. Choosing to intentionally focus on the person you’re speaking with.
You see, your gestures and your body language play a huge part in communication. If your words are kind, but you keep acting like all you want to do is get out of there, your spoken message will be lost in the roar of your unspoken message.
On the other hand, if your gestures and your body language say to the person you are speaking with: You are important! You are worth taking time for! You matter! I genuinely care about you and this conversation we are having! These messages will shine through both in the words you say and your non verbal communication.
Let Your Hands Do the Talking
One incredible way of communication that really encompasses both spoken and unspoken communication is sign language. Did you realize that sign language is considered its own language? Truly! Learning sign language is learning a second language.
I came across a statistic the other day that made my heart drop. Did you know that 20% of individuals in the United States alone have some form of hearing loss, ranging from partial hearing loss to profoundly deaf? Did you know that less than 10% of families in the United States even bother to learn sign language? And that includes the families of deaf individuals!
I’ll admit, this one is very near and dear to my heart because of the recent journey of good friends. You see, they have a daughter who is deaf. What makes this even more incredible is that they chose her. They chose to adopt her into their family. They chose to go from a family of 5 to a family of 6 not simply adopting a child, but adopting a daughter they knew was deaf. Adopting a daughter they went halfway around the world to go and get and shower her with love and bring her home.
Watching this family from afar and hearing their heart in the updates they write to friends and family is nothing short of inspiring. Their communication is authentic – they share about their joys and their struggles, the challenge that it is to learn sign language as a hearing person and then teach it to their daughter through multiple cultural and language barriers. They acknowledge both the good days and the hard days. Yet, woven throughout it all is this theme of joy, this purpose, this knowing their daughter is theirs. Knowing they will do everything in their power to connect with her and show her love. And one of the primary ways they have of communicating with her is through sign language.
This non-verbal communication, this journey of sign language they have been on was made very evident to me when our families had the opportunity to meet up a few months ago. Watching how each member of this family had worked hard to learn sign language, to be able to communicate individually with their daughter, their sister was incredible. No one was left out. Everyone could understand each other in sign language.
And what’s more, they are so willing to teach anyone who wants to learn different signs. And their daughter can tell! She can tell when other people are wanting to talk directly to her through the smiles, the eye contact, the “mispronounced” signs even as one of her siblings is standing there, helping to teach new signs and interpret any miscommunication.
It was a beautiful demonstration of the melding of words spoken through gestures and reinforced with non verbal communication.
Look Through My Eyes
Have you ever wondered why you can look at a masterpiece painting and have it “speak” to you? Do you ever look at a photograph and just stop, mesmerized by the image, captivated by the possibilities that seem to arrest your imagination?
Did you ever stop to consider that art, drawing, painting, photography are all methods of communication?
In some ways, painting and photography can be some of the highest forms of communication. It’s almost like you can get a glimpse of the heart of the artist as you look at their work. You see, even though photography is a moment captured in time, there is so much that goes into creating that great shot.
Lessons. Training. Practice. All of these take time and effort to accomplish. Editing and enhancing, ensuring the viewer will see what only the photographer could see at that moment they snapped the shot.
It’s as if, with one picture, with one captured moment in time, a skilled photographer has the ability to take you on a journey, to tell you a story, to bring you along with them to see what they see, to feel what they feel, to see through their lens at how the world looks.
It’s as if you are transported, taken away from where you are and drawn in to the feeling and emotion portrayed in the photograph.
In very much the same way, you can see this heart, this feeling, this authenticity come through in a drawing or a painting. Skill, lessons, and practice all went into learning how to bring a picture to life. Hours upon hours were devoted to making sure the viewer is able to see what at first only existed in the mind of the artist.
Have you ever had a friend send you a song? Perhaps they were listening to their playlist and as one song played they couldn’t get you out of their mind and so they sent it on over to you. Or perhaps there is a specific song that has spoken to them so strongly recently they couldn’t help but share it with you in the hopes it would touch your heart as well.
What is it about music that touches your heart so deeply?
Have you ever thought about those incredible elements of music that have the power to transport you out of the reality you seem to be in at the moment? To lift your spirits, to brighten your mood, to give voice to the melancholy that is inside you but doesn’t know how to be expressed?
“When words fail, music speaks.” (Hans Christian Andersen)
Music gives voice to that which you cannot express in mere words or actions.
Music has the power to communicate in tones, dynamics, and different sounds. The richness of the cello, the singing of the flue, the fierceness of the trumpets, the soothing of the harp, the bellowing of the drums, the delicate touch of the piano, the ethereal notes of the pipes or kaval. It has the power to calm an anxious heart, to invigorate and motivate the unmotivated, to allow joy to burst forth unabashedly, to give voice to deep sorrow.
Music allows you to express and feel and communicate what is hard to put into mere words or even actions.
Whether you realize it or not, music is an incredible means of communication from the toe-tapping powerful Irish dance to the melancholy sadness of a funeral dirge. From the joyful exploration of the springtime sounds to the harsh cold and the fireside’s warmth of winter.
Music is a powerful means of communication.
Communication can feel hard. And many times, it is one of the most challenging things you will come across in life. Each person communicates differently. Each person values a specific type of communication more or less than another.
But when you keep these guiding principles in mind, you can create real, heartfelt, authentic communication with those you meet.
Be real. Be authentic. Be intentional. Be purposeful.
And most of all, be true to who you are. Don’t try to become something you’re not as you communicate with others. Step out of your comfort zone and learn something new, whether that be a new language, sign language, a new skill like learning to play an instrument, or learning how to take beautiful pictures. But you can learn new skills and stay true to yourself in the process.
Remember, my Friend, no one is better at being you than you. Embrace the way you are wired. Embrace your natural gifts and abilities and build on those. Stretch yourself, yes. Try something new, yes. But never forget to be you.
And being you and communicating with others is one of the best gifts of friendship that you could ever offer.
What about you? What is your favorite method of communication? How do you like to connect with others? Let me know in the comments below!
- Looking to hire a photographer? Click here to find out more about the photographer behind the photos in this post, Vanassa Photography
- The Powerful Integration of Life and Music
- Handwritten Notes: Why Are They Special?
- Improve Your Focus with Purpose: Lessons from Sunflowers
- The World of Narnia and the Lessons to be Learned There
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.