I often wonder how people would believe the truth of the word of God or be ready to receive help in their lives if we were not able to communicate effectively to them! There is definitely no doubting the fact that God uses you and me, we being without exemplary communication or extraordinary conversational skills, as we are! But would that mean we shouldn’t be working on these areas?
We all love to check on the latest styles, phrases and techniques of communication and conversation, and there is nothing wrong in that. What we should also remember is to regularly derive our inspiration for the same from the Bible-the word of God, from the life and ministry of Jesus, and also from the preaching and writing of the Apostles and the Prophets.
Keeping all the above in mind, I’ve jotted down a few points and put forward a few tips. I pray this post helps.
1. Common Ground: We cannot start a conversation with somebody we don’t know without having anything in common to talk about. In our day and culture, talking to a stranger is considered intruding into their privacy. So it is important that we build a common platform before we start talking to them. Paul, when at Athens, talks in terms like “In him we live and move and have our being” and “we are indeed his offspring”, which were all terms associated with the Greek god Zeus, in their poems. (Acts 17:28) Here, Paul uses the language they understand to communicate to them a truth, that is so new to them. So we should try to build a common ground with the listener before we actually start sharing with him.
2. Gentleness Matters: Our ‘audience’ might not know much about who we are or the way we talk! If there is a person who loves to throw around sarcastic or rude comments, people might not be comfortable having a soul talk with him/her. Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well, in John 4, is the best example for the same. Even when the woman acted rude, Jesus didn’t! He, instead, spoke with such kindness, that it melted her heart to listen and accept what Jesus had to say!
3. Uncovering Need: The Samaritan woman’s real need, was not physical water, but a healing in her marriage! Our duty does not begin at conviction, but in allowing God into the “need area” of a person’s life. Convicting them is the Holy Spirit’s duty. We are called to minister to a particular need in his life. And to minister to that need, we first need to uncover it.
4. Probing Skills: Another aspect of building up an interesting conversation is to develop inquisitory skills without seeming like we’re interrogating the person. I remember talking to a friend who immediately shot back asking, “Are you trying to interview me?” Our questions should not sound hostile or pessimistic, but should be out of genuine concern for the person’s well being. Probing also opens the door for uncovering the real need of the person.
5. Active Listening: This is something that most of us lack. All we prefer and love to do is ‘preach’ at people. We hardly take a moment to listen actively. Our friend might not be saying something we agree to, but unless he feels we are listening to him, he would probably not listen to us. It helps being a careful and attentive listener.
6. Disagreeing Helps: In the pursuit of wanting to be accepted, most times, we fear disagreeing with the other person’s principles. We can for sure disagree (lest the person think that we agree with all that he says) but, at the same time, be respectful. Disagreeing does not mean arguments, condemnations or criticism, but instead, being firm and making our stand clear.
7. Introducing Solution: This is where you demand attention and make sure you’re heard and understood well. If you give an idea or a principle to help it might or might not always work. But the best solution is to introduce the person of Jesus, and to the truth in the Word of God and to working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. The combination never fails. Jesus is the answer to all the needs of human society, as individuals or as families and groups.
Now, that you have introduced the solution, it is not yours to make sure that the person does what you advised him to. You have sown the seed, now It is God’s to make it grow. (1 Cor 3:6) But your responsibility continues in that you support the person by praying for him. And continue doing that till you see fruit appear in those lives.
Would you like to add to any of the above principles? Please feel free to share your comments and ideas on building effective communication.