What I said isn’t what you heard….

I had the opportunity last week to perform a comedy routine at a women’s retreat. One of the lines in the routine has to do with friendship. It goes like this: “Friends are a lot like a parachute. If they’re not there the first time that you need them, odds are you won’t be needing them again.”

I thought it was a good line and would elicit some laughs. However, when I delivered the line, the women just looked at one another with puzzled looks, so I moved on to the next line.

Afterward, I sat down to have lunch with them and discovered the reason for the puzzled looks. I had delivered the line rather quickly, it seems, and they thought I had said “pair of shoes” instead of “parachute”. Ahhhh….. that explains the puzzled looks. In retrospect, I should have anticipated that and elaborated with a bit more description that just the word “parachute”. It is natural that women’s frame of reference would be a “pair of shoes” more commonly than a “parachute”. How often have I failed to communicate clearly? From the perspective of the recipient, there is listening, there is hearing, and there is comprehension and understanding. From the perspective of the communicator, there is the message itself, the delivery, and there is, one hopes, successful communication. For someone doing a comedy routine the signal that true communication has occurred is laughter.

Our pastoral staff is currently teaching a class on communication as a part of our leadership track. As one pastor taught on Sunday, our goal in speaking is threefold- to inform, to convince, and to motivate. We deliver a message that, if clearly expressed, engages the reasoning and emotions of our audience and results in communication.

Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail. Always we can learn from the effort.