Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance (Proverbs 1:5 NIV)
What if you had to meet a stranger? What’s your process of meeting a new family member? What common ground do I have with this person? How might you connect with a new colleague?
People can easily feel slighted by others based on background, preference, perception, and culture.
Don’t let disrespect and fear take over. Communication be swayed by letting your imagination run wild (how will this person react? What will they think of me?) How we react is a reflection of us – our true colors. You must truly believe in what you’re saying, otherwise skip it then refine it. People will come to you when they trust, value, and respect you.
Unless you’re a social/communication/psychological master, it’s helpful to add some method here to make any progress.
Being receptive to other people can be one of the most important steps in connection. Practicing receptiveness can lead to some amazing experiences that refine you and fulfill your life.
Be willing to listen to someone can set up some goals. Don’t think about your response. Retain the knowledge from their conversation and practice memory skills, which is something society at large is severely lacking today (obnoxious behavior, ignorant responses, self-centeredness, uneducated bias, failure to learn from history’s mistakes, etc.)
First, it takes some self-analysis. We all have perceptions and expectations. Know what yours are. Be aware of your criteria of assessment/judgment before attempting those connections. Understand the person’s perspective/background/culture.
Create the best environment you can. Interruption free. Try to resist the temptation to engage in media. Keep it fairly close for emergencies, but turn the sound down and place it somewhere mostly out of sight.
Now we’re to the point where we actually talk. Everything beforehand has been emotional and mental intelligence.
First, we have to articulate our voice and speak clearly. It won’t matter what’s coming out of our mouths unless we can project it in the best way possible. Public speaking can bring in some of those fears again for many, but it’s usually the best way to get the ball rolling with people informally. Sure, you can write an op-ed to a local newspaper, but most are going to discuss issues with our family, friends, colleagues, distractors, strangers, undecided, politically entrenched, gossipers, etc.
Breaking the ice with good hospitality skills can help too, but concentrate on basic personality types like introvert/extrovert. Is the person giving you eye contact? Are they talking or listening? These types are a good base to start with.
Finally, you have yourself set. You’ve gathered yourself. Like in basketball, you have the ball at your midsection and you’re ready for options: dribble, pass, or shot … or maybe flop if a defender hits you as a teammate sets a pick for you.
- Make the choice in your mind
Allow people to be part of your world. You have that power. You have that control. If you’re not ready and bail, don’t be ashamed. Still talk about the situation with others so you’re prepared the next time. Draw on your passions and talents and use them if you can.
- Control the environment when possible
You have to the power to allow what comes in. Know your audience. Analyze them. Set boundaries. Look physical, intellectual, emotional, sexual, time, material (money/possessions), and personal boundaries. In personal boundaries, rigid (avoids intimacy and close relationships), porous (overshares personal information), and healthy (values own opinions). Again, face-to-face is best. Take out possible distractions and optimize your delivery of God’s messages.
Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks what is right. (Proverbs 16:13, NIV)
- Take action/learn
“If you spend your life sparing people’s feelings and feeding their vanity, you get so you can’t distinguish what should be respected in them” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
We can stand our ground and practice convicting others, but none of us are perfect. The more we can admit that to ourselves, to God, and to each other, then we all get better results from our discourse and conflict.
Seek healthy, well-informed dialogue. Believe in others and what they’re telling you about their dreams and goals. Respect people no matter how they’re treating you. Practice patience.
Value your perspective and credibility – if you don’t, who else will? Watch for possible tangents, clichés, and generalizations. Be authentic and specific.
Unless you’ve wronged the person you’re talking to, you can avoid “I’m sorry” because that will cloud the issue at hand. Seek forgiveness outside your current discourse before moving on with this person … say that’s what you’re doing then end or switch directions.
Don’t continue with non-stop exposition or interrupt the other person(s). Interruptions especially can ruin the discourse “flow” you have going. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Trite, offensive, whiny, judgmental, and wandering communication diminishes your impact.
Tough conversations show that you care; people will inherently recognize otherwise you might not say anything. We don’t know how many people will recognize it and we can’t control that. Find comfort in knowing you can do God’s work according to His plan, not what we envision in our own feeble minds. It’s not us. We can just be the conduits. There are greater powers at work here.
I can’t help but think of the book of Esther in the Bible here, specifically chapter 4, verse 14 (NIV below). The Jews are at a crucial time here as Esther has the opportunity to go to King Xerxes at God’s command and make a strong case for the Jews …either she does it or everyone she cares about dies now in this situation and the Jews are saved at a future time:
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who know but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.
It’s easy to question yourself. If you’re not sure of yourself and others, then take a deep breath before you proceed. Under God’s guide, we can do great things without excuses, blame, and hate. If you take responsibility for yourself (follow God’s commandments, etc.), then you can continually refine yourself into someone that people will admire and emulate. Cling to God and His ways. Effort makes all the difference here. Don’t let this world and other people take you away from Him.
… let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19, NIV).