During a recent Sunday School class, the kids were making paper airplanes (sigh), so I decided to use this as an object lesson.   I picked up a piece of paper and said, “Ok, let’s say I don’t know how to make a paper plane.  Who wants to tell me how?”

My first subject volunteer said, “You fold it in half and keep folding in small pieces.”

You can guess what I came up with.  It looked something like this:

My second patsy volunteer did a bit better.  Here are his instructions:

1.  Fold the paper in half.

2.  Fold in the corners.

3.  Fold it in half again.

4.  Fold it again, and then fold up the wings.

Without any frame of reference, This is what it looked like:

When we talk to others, we can’t assume they already have the same frame of reference that we do.  We may think we’re being perfectly clear, when we’re really being clear as mud.  We were actually discussing various faiths and how they differ from Christianity.   It’s important, whether in this realm or others, to know what others believe if we really want to communicate with them.  In many ways, it’s like we all speak different languages, we must understand their language, as well as our own, in order to have effective communication.  Effective communication, by the way, only happens when both parties understand what was said.

Some things we can learn from this as we seek to communicate with others:

1.  Sometimes we say the same words, but we mean different things — don’t assume.

2.  We must be careful of ‘buzzwords’ that we understand but others do not — don’t assume.

3.  It matters that others understand what we’re trying to say — don’t assume.

Many a misstep happens as people think they have communicated clearly only to find out they did not.  Our tendency is to blame the other person for ‘not getting it’, thinking they are dumb or stubborn.  However, we are responsible for communicating clearly to others, and assuming others have the same frame of reference is one of the biggest hazzards on the path to communcating with others.