What I Learned About Communication From A Railroad Crossing


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What I learned about effective communication from a railroad crossingI must have passed these signs on the pavement on either side of the tracks hundreds–if not thousands–of times and yet…it wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I saw the message in the words.

Listen, look, stop three key elements in great communicationThree simple words written in white paint. Well, really six if you count the fact that they are written on either side of the tracks.  LISTEN. LOOK. STOP.

take time to really listenListen to the words the person is speaking to you. Really listen. Don’t get distracted by your smartphone, the TV, the thoughts swirling in your head. Give 100% of you attention to every word.

look at the whole pictureBefore you respond–look. Take a moment to look for clues of what might be going on behind the words. True, they could just be words, but often there is more behind the words that we are missing. This is where I think social media fails us. We read a status update and see just a dozen or so words painting a picture that truly needs thousands to be fully explained.

Look at body language, look at history, look at the emotions in the words. Never once have I regretted taking time to look before I have jumped into respond–but oh, the times I regret having jumped in without looking! Those I cannot count.

stop and look at the whole pictureSTOP! This was the last word on the trail before the tracks, yet really in communication it should be first and last, and even in the middle.

Stop and listen. Stop and look. Stop and pause before you respond.

When I see stop as it relates to communication I think of the verse in the Bible

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
 Philipians 4:8

This verse is talking about thoughts we are to let our mind think on, but I think it also applies to our speech.

If the words we are about to speak are not true, are not noble, are not right, are not pure, are not lovely, are not admirable–if they are not excellent or praiseworthy–they shouldn’t be said.

These 3 words on the pavement. Hard, hard words. I stumble. I fall. I plow through when I should have stopped.

Which brings me to a 4th and 5th words I wish were on the pavement. Forgive & Grace.

These two words cannot be separated. Forgive and give grace to others when they stumble and neglect to remember these 3 words when communicating with you. And if you know you have stumbled ask forgiveness and give yourself grace.

Look. Listen. Stop. Forgive & Grace.

If you are interested in friendship building, you might also like these posts:

A great book on the topic of friendship that I read and loved: Friendship: A Gift To Give

Follow Victoria @Snail Pace Transformations’s board Friendships on Pinterest.

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  1. Victoria,
    Excellent post! Not only important to remember, but relevant. Relevant now, relevant 1000 + years ago, and will remain relevant as long as people live on the earth!

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