THE WISDOM OF ABIGAIL: A MODEL FOR GOOD PEOPLE SKILLS
People Skill #2: Speaking to Be Understood
Effective communication is the ability to express oneself in a way to be clearly and accurately understood. It essentially involves two dynamics—listening to understand and speaking to be understood. If you fail to do either, you have failed to communicate.
Abigail was an excellent communicator. Through the skill of her words, she was able to deescalate a volatile situation and bring herself—and her family—into the good will of the soon-to-be king. Fortunately, her example is available to us today as well as other important references in the Word of God. Perhaps the greatest resource is the Book of Proverbs. Written by King Solomon, it provides rich truths regarding interpersonal relationships and people skills, some of which are described below.
Great communicators have an acute sensitivity. The first thing Abigail did when she met David was show empathy for his position. She dismounted her donkey, bowed to the ground in respect and said, “Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him!” (1 Samuel 25:25). She was sensitive to the fact that David had been offended by her foolish husband, Nabal. By her actions and words, she validated David’s offense while anticipating that he needed to be shown respect. In so doing, she found in him a receptive ear.
Before any word is even spoken, effective communicators have a type of “sixth sense”—an ability to put themselves “in the other person’s shoes” and see the issue from that person’s perspective. Rather than merely thrusting their own opinion forward, they have a keen awareness of how the information being shared, or how the circumstances at hand, are impacting their counterpart. Even more, they are able to pivot off that response with a more favorable approach, often adjusting their tone and temperament as needed. They will talk about their own ideas, but they do so in a way that also speaks to the needs, emotions and aspirations of the other person.
This sensitivity enables them to “read between the lines.” They have the uncanny ability to understand what is not being said—or heard. These astute communicators know that conversation is more than just words— it’s also emotion. And they put forth the effort to sense and read that emotion. They know how to keep their hearts open and their mouths shut long enough to read, hear, and learn about their audience before they set out to speak, convince, and persuade them.
By contrast, the ineffective communicator is like “a bull in china shop.” This person has no regard for how the other is being impacted by his words—he doesn’t care. The only thing that matters to him is getting his own point across. This low impact communicator is always bringing the conversation back to what he wants, how he is feeling, what he thinks is important, and why he should be heard. Sadly, this same person is usually left feeling frustrated, lonely, rejected, and insecure. Why? Because no one can tolerate him. He is seen as selfish, insensitive, and uncaring—and nobody wants that person on their team, despite their talent, education or good looks.
For more information on great people skills, check out my latest book, UPWARD: Taking Your Life to the Next Level now available on Amazon.