Why Isn’t Anyone Listening??

The thought popped into my brain right in the middle of a recent radio segment. If your MESSAGE is getting lost in your METHOD, are you achieving your purpose? Or can tweaking your METHOD further promote your MESSAGE and move you closer to accomplishing your goal? It’s an interesting concept to consider, whatever the arena or the audience. No matter the point or principle, standard rules of engagement apply to any attempt at communication.

I first had my epiphany in the midst of a discussion about National Anthem protests before NFL games. After a weekend in which 12% of NFL players knelt, sat, or stretched during the presentation of the flag and the Anthem, the debate reached a crescendo. Despite the original goal of bringing attention to social injustice and racial inequality, the focal point remains the chosen practice of protesting–on a football field during a moment meant to honor our nation. Regardless of how many times athletes indicate their protest is not against the military, scores of people can’t get past the where and when these demonstrations are taking place. Their MESSAGE is largely getting lost in their METHOD.

Is their method wrong? No, not as long as their employer, the National Football League, allows the peaceful protests and individual expressions on the sidelines before games. Since the NFL is allowing players to exercise their free speech, they’re allowed to call attention to causes as they wish. But they can’t control the response. Freedom of speech is NOT freedom from consequences. With thousands of Americans put off by the way they’re protesting, their message is often glossed over in the uproar. What if linking arms during the Anthem results in fewer fans tuning out and still highlights the players’ convictions? If the goal is to spread the word and engage more people in conversation, a compromise may open additional doors.

Compromise is often considered a dirty word, as though it undermines principles or waters down messages. But compromise is critical to successful communication, whether we’re talking about mass media or interpersonal relationships. The term “radical middle” was coined in a recent tweet by former Green Beret and Texas Longhorns long snapper Nate Boyer. It immediately piqued my interest, and I started mulling it over. Whether we’re right or left, up or down, forward or back, the easiest place to share ideas is always in the middle. If I take a few steps toward you, and you take a few steps toward me, it’s a shorter journey for both of us. The METHOD of meeting in the middle typically ensures the MESSAGE will reach more people. Very often, compromise is saving us time and money!

One major key to fruitful communication is knowing your audience. Understanding WHO is paramount in understanding HOW. As a long-time owner of pets and teacher of kids, I’ve learned it matters far more how I speak to them than which words I use. My Australian shepherd, Penny, is extremely sensitive to my tone of voice. The second my voice belies tension or stress or anger or frustration, she picks up on it. If I get road rage while we’re in the car, she reflects my emotions.  The opposite is also true: I can complain about how tired I am and how much I’d rather be sleeping instead of walking her, but if I use my sweet voice, she wags her tail and follows me. It doesn’t matter what I’m saying since she only recognizes a handful of words. My method of speaking to her is far more important than my particular message. The same applies to children. They may only understand part of what I’m saying to them in Sunday school or after a community soccer game. But a voice full of kindness, caring, compassion, and happiness speaks volumes. Again, HOW is more important than WHAT.

As a Christian, I relish opportunities to share my faith. I desire to tell people about my relationship with Jesus and how it’s changed my life for good. Of course, I want to convince people He’s real, that the Bible is the living, breathing Word of God. But if I start with, “You’re wrong, and I’m right,” no one’s going to listen to my reasons why. I can scream, yell, preach, shout, tweet and blog about heaven and hell until I’m blue in the face. If my MESSAGE isn’t conveyed with peace, joy, humility, and thankfulness, then it’s lost in my METHOD. And if people are tuning out because of my delivery, what’s the point? My story is one of grace and mercy, forgiveness, redemption, and unconditional love. If I don’t start there, my testimony likely falls on deaf ears.

This Thanksgiving, I finally get quality family after months of not seeing them. I’m thrilled for a holiday break full of the people I love most in the world. But if your family gatherings are anything like mine, there is always potential for arguments and conflicts. The people who know us the best know our triggers, our histories, our old hurts and past failures. And with family, we’re not necessarily on our best behavior. I go into every holiday pledging that I will NOT take the bait, ha! That means watching my tone of voice and my sarcastic comments. Family time is precious. Who cares if I’m right or I “win”? Getting defensive and edgy and raising my voice are methods that never work. Way smarter to breathe and let my heart rate subside before I speak. A bull in a china shop usually ends up making a mess.

As a passionate, emotional girl, I feel a consistent tug of war between method and message, between my emotions and words. But over time, I’ve learned that respect is the perfect starting block–whether I’m hosting my radio show, talking politics with friends or relaxing with family. It makes every kind of communication more apt to succeed. Ultimately, respect is a METHOD that guarantees a higher rate of return on your MESSAGE.

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8 Responses to “Why Isn’t Anyone Listening??”

  1. Ray Williams Says:

    I never thought of it that way. Thanks for a fresh perspective to the issue, Amy. Have a blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends

  2. Scott Nickels Says:

    Very good description of effective communication. Just completed a program on LinkedIn where only 7% of understanding is from the words we use and the balance is other factors that generate emotional response, which can be a very powerful (or dangerous) tool to convey your message.

  3. Greg DeGuglielmo Says:

    Well said Amy! So true…when one person “wins” the relationship loses. I just completed a course called “Relationship Skills Boot Camp” (RSBC) led by Dr Darcy Sterling and this subject could not be more important in the times we live.

    Anyway, you have a real gift as a communicator and many of us benefit from
    your sharing it…Keep up the great work!

    Happy & blessed Thanksgiving to you, your family, and dog Penny!

    Your fellow Roman Catholic (& Aries “fire sign” !!)😉
    ~ Greg 🦃🙏🏻🍁

  4. janet alden Says:

    Amy, you always write and share from your heart and with fairness and care. Love your message and learned from your message

  5. Alethe Kidd Says:

    Love it! I would add consistency is key to method. The anthem poses usually don’t bother me. I wish #nfl would poll the players some choices and make them all do the same pose across teams. For example, all must kneel in line with standing players, not sitting or kneeling out of line of other players. It looks more unified and I am not confused that their pose isn’t meaning something else. Merry Christmas Amy!

  6. Your message and the method in which you deliver it not only enlightens the masses who hear it, but it also often glorifies the One who has blessed you with the platform you bestow. I believe our heavenly Father would gladly say to you, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”. Keep at it and making the world a better place, Amy…and never doubt your message or the method in which you deliver it!

  7. Paul Huebner Says:

    Well said. The key is to be able to read the house. Im sure Cap thought his method would wrk. But he didn’t see that he wasn’t talking g about the same thing as the people who got upset were. When one communicates, one must observe the response and adjust the method or risk a total failure. Personally I hate listening to someone who says, “I know what you are thinking…”. That is an arrogant statement based on ignorance which never allows for real communication. Much better are the statements followed by questions. “This is what I think. How do you see it?”.

    Maybe the problem is that we live on Twitter and fb and so we don’t see the non verbal ques that would allert us to the fact that we are getting close to a person’s flash point. Or maybe sitting behind a screen makes us care less how others feel. Or maybe we as a society have become so self absorbed that we don’t really care about anyone outside of our own little group of people who act and think like us.

    Good questions though boss.

  8. Very wise words that I think a lot of people could employ. I read a quote once that said “you don’t turn the handle the way you think it should turn, you turn it the way that opens the door” – and I think that ties in with what you’re saying… You need to choose a method that will be the best vessel for your message, not just chose the method you ‘think’ is best.

    And congratulations because someone loved this post so much, they added it to the BlogCrush linky! Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge 🙂 #blogcrush

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