In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun succeeded him as king. David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father.
When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites, the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Hasn’t David sent them to you only to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?” So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away.
2 Samuel 10:1-4 (NIV)
This past week I was witness to an unexpected public confrontation. An intoxicated friend publicly confronted another friend regarding a particular past incident. The former was blind-sided and blamed the latter for something after it had been poorly communicated via a third party and created a projected misunderstanding of intent and consequence. It was messy and awkward and completely unnecessary.
For almost thirty years of my career, I’ve been assessing customer expectations, experiences, and satisfaction. Having analyzed literally tens of thousands of interactions between customers and companies, I can tell you that almost every escalated customer situation begins with miscommunication or a misunderstanding of intentions. I’ve observed that the same is true for most human conflicts.
I’m spending this week on-site with a client, mentoring a group of relatively inexperienced managers. As I shadow them and observe them interacting with and coaching their team members, I am reminded of how critical intention, tone, and clarity are to the power and reception of communication.
So it was for the Ammonites in today’s chapter. David sent his envoys with the purest of intentions, but his intentions were misunderstood and the resulting escalation and conflict claimed the lives of over 40,000 soldiers.
In the quiet this morning, I’m reminded of the sage of Proverbs who wrote “when words are many, sin is not absent.” No wonder Jesus told His disciples to speak clearly and directly with a simple “yes” or “no.” Miscommunication of both words and intent can carry a high price in collateral damage relationally, spiritually, and sometimes even physically. When it comes to those types of price tags, I prefer to be a cheapskate.
A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.
Featured image on today’s post created with Wonder A.I.