November 15, 2007
Preaching to Express, not Impress
Leadership's original sage on being an excellent communicator.
Fred Smith was featured in the very first issue of Leadership published in 1980. Since then the businessman, Bible teacher, and sage as written more than 37 articles, and his insights have guided thousands of pastors. Fred's definition of leadership was succinct: "A leader is not a person who can do the work better than his followers; he is the person who can get this followers to do the work better than he can." Fred Smith died in August, days before his 92nd birthday.
Fred's wisdom has been compiled into a recently released book, Breakfast with Fred (Regal, 2007). The book also contains thoughts from many other Christian leaders impacted by Fred. Below is an excerpt.
Good communication is more than presence, delivery or even content. A truly great communicator understands three important principles.
First, he or she understands that it is crucial to have the spirit of communication. The speaker should be motivated to express, not impress. My friend Dr. Jim Cain accepted an invitation to speak in front of 2,000 key executives about stress. He was preceded at the podium by a renowned cardiologist and a famous psychiatrist who got caught in the competition of impressing each other. When Dr. Cain spoke, he used a simple analogy to describe what the audience needed to know. This distinguished Mayo Clinic physician understood the spirit of communication. He expressed, not impressed.
Second, great communicators understand that they should avoid registering shock. When a person shows shock, it automatically says to the other individual that their value systems are obviously in conflict, and unpolluted communication immediately becomes impossible. Clearly, teenagers use the shock factor as a way to avoid communication entirely. Wise parents listen while keeping physical and mental control - "never let them see you sweat."
Third, good communicators display interest, not curiosity. Interest through listening and skillful questioning opens understanding. Each of us wants to feel that another is sincerely interested, but none of us wants to be the target of curiosity. I see the difference this way: Interest gives you information for the other person's benefit; curiosity is helpful simply for you. Let me give you an example. I was on the phone with a young woman who was obviously crying. A curious question would have been, "Why are you crying?" An interested question begins with asking permission, "Do you want to tell me why you are crying?" Interest, not curiosity, opens a door.
A true communicator has a message and a mandate. An adept communicator knows that energy, passion, skillfulness and experience follow the gift that is used wisely and well.
Reflection: Mac Brunson
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida
Without sounding gratuitous, this is the genius of Fred Smith. There are three principles here that are critical to every good communicator, but only one of those deals with speaking. The other two principles deal with our listening and how we listen. Effective communication is only one- third what we say and two-thirds how we have connected with those to whom we are speaking. How many times can you remember your mother saying, "Listen twice as much as you speak"?
When you listen, you make a connection. How you listen, as Fred has suggested, impacts your communication. It is critical to listen to those to whom you are going to communicate. How you listen to them either builds a bridge or erects a wall.
As a pastor, whenever I preach, I know that my listeners are people who are one decision away from moral, financial, marital or personal ruin. The others are considering options that will follow them the rest of their lives. The question is not Are they listening? but Have learned the right to be heard in order to effectively communicate God's Word? Only then has communication taken place.
Fred also speaks of the spirit of communication. My wife always tells me, "Speak to the heart and not the head." What she is saying is what Fred has stated - don't try to impress others, but speak to their needs. Someone once said, "It is impossible to impress them with Jesus and yourself at the same time."
Three Questions to Think About
1. When am I guilty of impressing, not expressing?
2. What steps can I take to develop my message and mandate?
3. How do I move toward interest and away from curiosity?
Breakfast with Fred by Fred Smith, Sr. pp. 160-62.
? Fred Smith, Sr. Published by Regal Books, Ventura CA, 93003.
Used by permission.