2 Peter 3:16-17 New International Version (NIV)
16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.
If we had all been schooled in the classical tradition, we would have learned the basics of argument and the nuances of reasoning. It’s an extremely important part of understanding the world around us, actually, but because of its rigor and what seemed like disconnectedness to “today’s” culture, we virtually abandoned the study of communication in this way.
So why should you care about that? You’re probably thinking after those short few sentences that you are absolutely glad that this antiquated stuff got removed from schools before your time. Some of you might have actually had some of this. I actually taught some of this to my college students for many years.
So why in the world am I talking about this in a devotional/blog on communication? Because it so deeply matters to how you relate to and interact with other people. When you understand communication from its roots in rhetoric, you come to a much deeper appreciation for both what it takes to do it well and what it takes to accept that we don’t do it well most of the time.
An important part of communication is our assumptions. What are assumptions? – “things accepted as true or certain without proof.” What are assumptions in communication? – what people suppose to be true that shapes what and how they communicate with others. Assumptions are unavoidable because they are our underlying beliefs, opinions, principles, values, and inferences that tie what we are communicating together.
We all have beliefs and opinions that shape our view of situations and circumstances before us. And ours don’t match exactly to those of others. This makes for potential misunderstandings and ill will. When they line up, our similar assumptions cause us to agree and to rally around each other in support, but when they don’t agree, we end up with confusion, distrust, anger, and worse.
When what we are communicating is hard for others to understand or to agree with, it can get distorted, and problems can ensue. We have to be conscious of the fact that our assumptions may not be the only assumptions in the room. We have to be gracious when others assumptions don’t line up with ours. We have to know that we aren’t always right; our assumptions aren’t always the best. And we have to be aware that others assumptions might also be faulty.
What are we agreeing with or arguing against? Does it stand up to the rigor of analysis? Do the underlying assumptions work with what is being argued?
I’ll save y’all the intricacies of classical rhetorical analysis, but know this, you totally get better at communicating when you know this stuff. Maybe I’ll brave a blog or communication mini-course that’s a throw back to classical rhetoric to improve your daily communications.
In our communications, just as in our faith, we are to test all things against the truth of God’s Word. When we honor others and seek to do what is right and just, we will find our communications more and more in line with how it’s supposed to work.
So let’s vow to give people some grace before jumping to conclusions about their intentions. Maybe, just maybe, their assumptions have them seeing the situation from a far different view than our assumptions have us seeing it. And maybe, just maybe, tackling these assumptions head on can help us make sense of the chaos around us.
Connie Benoit Sirois
Author | Speaker | Trainer
We are called to love others as ourselves. Our communication gives us continual opportunities to do this. We should never miss a chance to honor others. I’d love for you to read about my mission.
Find out how to increase your ability to have a positive impact on others, even when situations and people are negative.