Why you need to squeeze the pus in difficult conversations

When it’s clear someone has a concern, the longer it takes to get the concern out of them, the more likely there is that there’s other concerns still sitting behind that one.

Once you’ve started digging, and they’re opening up about the issue they have with you, or church, or whatever… squeeze the pus. Keep creating space to let them get it all out. Keep thanking them for their opinion, thanking them for having the guts to come and talk to you, keep asking if there’s anything else.

It might even be worth getting to a certain point and writing it down; “So you’ve raised a few issues… first it was X, then you raised A, B and C. I’m really glad I got to hear those. Is there anything else?”

If you want people to lay their cards on the table…

…you have to show some of yours. That’s just how relationships and trust work.

There’s no use going into a conversation where it might be tricky and expecting the other person to tell you everything about themselves, where they’re at with their thinking or decisions, or even what’s happened to them. Whether its in walk-up evangelism, 1:1s, or in a group situation. People usually don’t just jump to a deeper level of self-revelation because you ask them to. But you can lead them to a point where they are more comfortable to talk by talking about a similar deep issue you’ve faced, or are facing.

The principle here is that you don’t have to share an experience with someone to talk about it. You just have to talk at the same level of the experience they’ve had. Open yourself up, allow yourself to be vulnerable, in order to help others be vulnerable with you.

*Yes. This can be used to great evil – so don’t use it for evil. Be holy.

Your way is not the only way it can get done right #horstmans-laws.8

(This is a series of reflections on Horstman’s Laws)

If you’re in gospel ministry, it’s easy to get into a way of thinking that the way you do things is the right way… the only way. And when someone comes up and suggests that there’s another way, and its worked for them in the past, we fall back on our “higher-wisdom” and declare they can’t know how it really is…

The funny thing is, much of the time, they’re thinking exactly the same thing… that you way is silly and they have the greater wisdom because they’ve seen it work somewhere else…

The practice of how you do things is important, but it’s really not that important. We like to think it is, but if the way we did things was really that important, God would have given us more clear guidance on the matter.

So, open your mind, lower you defences, and hear them out.

Unfortunately, behaviours dictate theology

It would be nice if people developed their personal beliefs from the Bible, and only from the Bible. But that’s just not the world we live in.

The reality is that people have experiences, they make choices, they have behaviours that they like doing. And its these pre-existing behaviours that end up influencing, shaping and even defining what they believe about certain things. The classic example is the adulterer who says something like, “I believe God is all about love. God doesn’t want me to be in a loveless relationship. I believe God’s put this other person in my life to experience the joy he designed me to have”. These people don’t think they are pretending. They honestly believe these things to be true. They will even defend them from the Bible.

You do this. I do this. We all let our cherished behaviours dictate and shape our beliefs about God.

How do you respond to someone who does this? Well, neither their behaviours or their interpretation of the Bible are “moveable”. Maybe the best bet is to help them be open to the idea that they have let their behaviours define their theology. Open them up to the heart of the error, and pray for God to graciously soften hearts.

You have a culture, did you know?

Whatever the group, big or small, whole church or growth group, it has a culture.

There’s a commonly agreed way things are. A commonly held idea about how things happen; evangelism, bible reading, singing, everything. You only notice it when someone does something different and all of a sudden it seems weird to everyone else.

So its worth getting a few observant people together and get them to answer that hard question… what’s become normal for “us” and are we happy with that as our normal?

Choose how to hear people

You don’t have to hear people the way they want you too. You actually get to choose what type of “thing” you’re going to hear.

If someone gives you a complement, you can decide to hear it as a comment rather than flattery.

if someone criticises you, you can choose to hear it as advice to take into account.

if someone gives you an instruction or even a direct command, you can choose to hear it as a price of advice to consider.

This ability to choose what type of communication your hearing is very powerful. And like most powerful things, can be used poorly and well. Be wary of the fool who doesn’t hear a rebuke and take it to heart. Long to be Christians who hear the gospel word not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God.

Do you care about everyone?

I hope you do. We all want to care about everyone. But often we can end up only caring for the few who are loudest. We listen to the vocal minority, and end up ignoring the silent majority.

It doesn’t mean the loud few are wrong; they might be right. But just because you’re looking to protect a few people doesn’t mean you’re looking after everyone. In fact, you might be thinking of everyone in a completly wrong way…

When you think of everyone, do you mean all the adults in your church? What about all the kids? Are you somehow caring for the obvious adults, but in that very action, not caring about the unseen kids in classes?

Or maybe your “everyone” is every person in your church… but is that every person in church on Sunday? Or every person in a GrowthGroup? Who are you not caring about then?

And what about the people in your suburb? Are you so caring about the people in your church, that you’re neglecting to care about the people in your community?

How would your decisions, programs, plans look different if you tried to take everyone into account, rather than just a few people?

Reflective listening causes self-reflection

If you want to see people change, its pretty rare that simply telling them to change will do anything. Telling people what they should think rarely gets them thinking something different to what they already do.

But reflecting back to them what they think… that’s powerful.

It requires asking loads of questions, trying to get inside their mind, see the world from their point of view… even though you know its skewed. And reflect that to them… “So what you’re saying is, you see the world this way…”

When you genuinely reflect back to someone what they’re saying, they usually start their own self-reflection. “Is that what I’m saying? Am I happy with that? It sounds like what I said but maybe I don’t want to think that.”

An added bonus to this is that, hopefully by God’s grace as they read God’s word, they will see the correction themselves. They will create their own solution, they will decide their own course of action.

And yes, that might have been the very thing you were going to “tell” them in the first case, but oh, don’t people get behind their own ideas more than others?!?

Influence requires association

If you want to change someone’s mind or a culture, you can’t do it from the outside. The less associated you are, the less influence you can ever have. Its unbelievable how people think that simply by complaining from the outside, they will ever see any change on the inside.

But the reverse is also true. The more associated you are will someone or a group, the more influential you can be. The person who sidles up beside their leader (or the leader who invests time in their people), by supporting them, encouraging them, etc… they have a position of influence.

Before you complain that no one ever listens to you, ask yourself if you would listen to someone who’s acting like you.