No loss for words at ‘Lunch and Learn’ on communication
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Finding the right words is a challenge for everyone, including those who do it for a living. Just ask any teachers, public speakers or writers.
“One of the things I joke about with my students, especially when I’m teaching Relational Communication, is that just because I teach it doesn’t mean that I’m always good at it,” said Josh Danaher, an assistant professor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Grand Canyon University. “It just means I know the theories associated with how to explain it — because, man, I’m not always a good communicator.”
So it wasn’t a surprise Friday morning when Danaher’s humorous and informative presentation, “Communication and the Christian Faith,” for the second “Lunch and Learn” installment of the College of Theology‘s Integration of Faith, Learning and Work program, was followed by a long Q-and-A session with faculty members at Howerton Hall. It’s a hot-button issue, and their buttons were most definitely pushed.
Danaher’s talk sparked a long discussion about the difficulty of communicating effectively — teacher to student, student to teacher, teacher to teacher, human being to human being.
“These are issues that we face every day,” Danaher said. “That’s what students catch onto really quickly. They understand that what they’ve been doing is an integral part of their nature as human beings, but they could do it better.”
In addition to Relational Communication, Danaher teaches Intercultural Communication, Public Speaking and Mass Media at GCU, where he has been an instructor for five years after starting in the Maricopa Community College system.
In his talk, he emphasized that the keys to Christian communication are threefold: It is grounded in a redemptive worldview that builds relationships and draws out the value in people, it is filled with humility and mindful listening that values insights and counsel, and it is aimed at truth and justice but seasoned with grace.
The area that drew the most comments in the faculty discussion after Danaher’s talk was how communication can go awry when the listener is more aware of forming a reply that is based on how they interpret the world rather than what the speaker is saying.
Mindful listening is a skill, Danaher said, and he suggested that one way to be a better listener is to practice RASA (Receive, Ask, Summarize, Appreciate) and avoid snap judgments.
“You don’t respond until you’re mindful of being charitable to the other position,” he said.
Danaher tries to be equally mindful of this when he writes comments on students’ papers because he has noticed that, when his evaluation contains constructive criticism, students’ interpretation tends to be that he doesn’t like them.
“This is really applicable to the online classroom,” he said.
Dr. Jason Hiles, dean of the College of Theology, then did a talk on “Work as Cultivation,” noting that God created the world alone but creates culture through humans. “Culture refers to what we cultivate together,” he said.
The final word: “As communicators, we’re connectors,” Danaher said. The trick is to accomplish that in a world that is connected more than ever but too often fails to communicate.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected]