Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn’.
I’ve been considering Franklin’s observation this week as we’ve been looking at potential secondary schools for our fourth son, Isaac. His three older brothers have sampled three different schools in York, all of which seem to have their strengths – and weaknesses. Which is right for him? Mmm. Hard to say. So we’ve been going round various Open Evenings, checking out what they’re up to. What’s been fascinating is observing how they’ve communicated on these evenings – both to the parents and to the children. Whilst they all clearly aim to teach to a high standard, one school stood out as really involving the student in the learning process. They worked amazingly hard at keeping every aspect of the evening fresh and interesting. I suspect that’s the school we’ll end choosing as first choice.
This experience has also made me think about the way I personally communicate, and how we do that at The Belfrey. We want to help people find faith in Christ and to grow, learn, discern and mature both as human beings and particularly as disciples of Jesus. As we press on in worship, discipleship and outreach, the way we help people learn is really important. Of course, there’s no one way of doing it. And styles change and media of communication develop. So we just have to keep working at it, using the resources at our disposal. It helps to have good people around you – as (after the Holy Spirit) they’re our number one resource! It’s great that we have people at The Belfrey who want to help us communicate well, and I’m particularly pleased that Alex Wilmott – a brilliant young writer and communicator – has agreed to give us some significant time to help us sharpen our communication.
When I ask people about communication in today’s digital age, many think first of emails. Texts. Social media, like Twitter and Facebook. They might write a blog (like I do here). If they’re part of an organisation (like The Belfrey, which is a church) the website always comes to mind as it’s now a basic communication tool. And then there are other forms of writing – like personal letters, cards and notes. Or essays. Work documents and proposals.
And then there’s the ancient art of talking. Sometimes overlooked by those who forget that we don’t live in a totally virtual world, the actual words we speak face to face with people are really important!
There are also the non-verbal communication things, like our body-language, the way we dress and the sound of our voice – which will be more or less important depending on whether we’re communicating in front of someone, or on the phone, or on skype.
And so the list could go on … and we’ve not even touched on listening.
For some the very thought of working on communication is overwhelming. Where should I start? The answer of course is right here, right now. Praying and working to communicate as helpfully and effectively as I can, in every situation I find myself – whether at home, work, on the phone or just out shopping.
It’s obvious that communication is essential to life. And crucial if we want our relationships to thrive. Communication is clearly linked to education, learning and growth – which is why I want to keep working at my communication. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury was right when he said ‘Bad human communication leaves us less room to grow.’ Conversely, good communication gives people space to flourish.
Are we providing room for those around us to grow?