Verbal communication has three components: words, tone and body language.
Words make up 7 percent of the message; tone makes up 38 percent; and body language makes up 55 percent. When all three components convey the same message, our communication is fully integrated.
However, when talking on the telephone, we cannot see body language so we lose over half of our ability to communicate effectively.
When texting, emailing or writing, we lose 93 percent of our ability to communicate. Punctuation, capitalization, formatting and emoticons help, but do not make up the difference.
How about that!
Is it any wonder there is so much misunderstanding and miscommunication in the world?
Words are extremely important. The words we use can build up or tear down. They can stain lives and do irreparable damage; they can create enemies; they can cause strife; and they can break hearts.
The Letter of James describes the tongue as “a restless evil, full of deadly poison" — it certainly can be. But the tongue is not the whole problem; after all, it simply conveys what is in the mind and heart.
And what is in our hearts condemns us.
Jesus said, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.”
James almost sounds fatalistic when he says, “But no one can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.”
Are people really that double-minded? It seems like it.
You have heard people who one minute praise God for all his blessings; the next, they complain about not having enough. One minute, they praise God for the life they have in Jesus Christ; later, they complain when they face trials. One minute, they give thanks for food on their table; later, they complain that they have to work to pay the bills.
James makes an obvious admonition: “My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.”
If we are to bless our Lord, if we are to recognize we are children of God — as is everyone — our words must convey this. We must let God's loving presence permeate our whole life. And all our words need to reflect the loving grace we have received from God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We ought not speak contradictory messages. Your words, your thoughts, your hearts all need to be integrated in such a way that you convey, in all times and places, God's greatness.
Remember: 55 percent of your message is through body language — what you do. How you live your life, the words you choose and how you say them convey what is in your heart.
The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.