Dear Healed by Wounds,
Last night I tried to share the gospel with a college friend. The conversation started out well. My friend was interested to find out that I am a Christian and started asking me some questions about why I believe Christianity is true. But at some point in the conversation, my friend started getting visibly upset and challenged my answers. She said my answers were trite and that I acted like a know-it-all who didn’t care about other people’s opinions. I came away feeling like I offended her and now I’m really discouraged! I never even made it to the gospel. What can I do?
–Saved by Grace
Dear Saved by Grace,
First of all, don’t panic! Remember that God is sovereign and he allowed you to be in that conversation, perhaps even causing you to make some missteps so you could learn something about your approach when talking to others about him. I do have some tips that might help you, some from “Walks with God” and some of my own.
The Law of Conversational Sharing
“Walks with God” taught me something he calls “the law of conversational sharing”. The idea is that you don’t tell somebody what you believe unless you have already asked the other person what she believes, and then listened without interrupting. The other thing he told me, which I’ve heard from others, is this: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
This is something that came to me a few weeks ago during Sunday School, and I’ve been trying to put it into practice. It’s a short acronym that I think can be very useful when you are trying to have meaningful and winsome conversations.
- Start the conversation by saying something kind
- Make warm and welcoming gestures
- I don’t know what it’s like to be you
- Listen actively
- End the conversation by saying something kind
Let’s take a closer look at each part:
The acronym itself is meant to be a reminder to smile when talking with others. Sometimes a smile speaks better than words.
Starting off the conversation by saying something kind can be as easy as saying “Hello”. Or maybe you could compliment the person about something.
A warm and welcoming gesture can be as easy as a smile. You could also try using a softened facial expression or give an encouraging nod.
You don’t need to say the words, “I don’t know what it’s like to be you”. You can simply be thinking it during the conversation so that your speech and attitude is seasoned with salt – showing grace, understanding, and compassion.
“Active listening” is a skill everybody needs to practice. Clear communication is the best kind of communication!
Ending the conversation by saying something kind brings it full circle and hopefully leaves all participants with smiles on their faces.
Look, we really don’t know what it’s like to walk in anyone else’s shoes. Invest time in people and learn their stories to get a better idea of how to communicate with them effectively. I know you didn’t intend to offend your friend. Most people don’t intentionally set out to offend other people. We may end up offending people with the message of the gospel unintentionally, but that doesn’t mean we need to be offensive in how we get the message across. Join me in finding creative ways to S.M.I.L.E!
Until next time, I am, and always will be, Healed by Wounds.