I’ve been reading a new book on interpersonal communication.  I found it surprising that the authors, Quentin Schultze and Diane Badzinski, begin the book with a chapter on gratitude. Why gratitude? Schultze and Badzinski argue that communication emerges out of our character, and our character is forged by our attitude toward God and others. So they suggest that learning gratitude—being grateful for even the most ordinary things—opens us to the grace of God and the goodness of others.
Who knew that a good prayer life might actually enable me to be a better communicator!
To clarify their point, Schultze and Badzinski suggest there are three basic attitudes a person can have toward others that profoundly shape our communication. First is the displeased communicator: Nothing is done right, and negative vibes exude from such a person – even when they are trying to be positive! Second is the indifferent communicator: Apathy is the flavor of the day, and “I don’t care” is what gets communicated. Third is the grateful communicator: This type of person exudes warmth and care, even in difficult and challenging environments.
All of this reflection on communication speaks into leadership practices. As leaders, what are we communicating with our words and actions? We may not use the word indifference or say that we are displeased, yet we still communicate an uncaring attitude. Schultze and Badzinski describe six types of people who demonstrate gratitude in their words and actions. I found their list helpful:
- Encouragers who build us up
- Advocates who speak up on our behalf
- Listeners who care about our thoughts and feelings
- Storytellers who give us joy and delight
- Forgivers who make things right when we’re wrong
- Challengers who ask appropriate questions about our communication
Perhaps, as leaders, we could be more intentional about the practice of gratitude and allow our gratitude toward God to shape the ways in which we lead as encouragers, advocates, listeners, storytellers, forgivers and challengers. So let me challenge you to think about what motivates your communication with the people who are close to you and with your communities of faith. Let’s let gratitude lead the way!
 Quentin J. Schultze and Diane M. Badzinski, An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication: Building Great Relationships with Faith, Skill, and Virtue in the Age of Social Media (Baker Academic, 2015).
Dr. Carson Reed is Vice President for Church Relations at Abilene Christian University and Executive Director of the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry. He also serves as the Director for the Doctor of Ministry Program and holds the Frazer Endowed Chair for Church Enrichment in the Graduate School of Theology. Through the Siburt Institute, Carson does consulting work with congregations and church leaders across the country. His teaching and research centers on leadership, preaching, and issues surrounding faith and culture. Carson and his wife Vickie have been married for over 30 years and have four grown children.