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How to Have a Conversation: Basic Principles

What Would You Say?

You're in a conversation with a friend or a family member, and it's clear you have different values or convictions about a given topic. You want to have a productive conversation, but you don't want to come across as pushy or dogmatic. What would you say? When you're discussing a hard topic, it can be difficult to navigate the conversation without shutting down the person you're talking to or being shut down. That's why it's important to go into conversation with the right motive and a game plan. The next time you're about to have a hard conversation, here are two principles to remember: Number one: Think like you're planting a garden, not harvesting a crop Before there can be any harvest, there always has to be a season of let's just call it “gardening.” I want you to think of the words of Jesus at the end of John chapter four. He is talking to the woman at the well. She went off to Sychar and then the disciples come in and here's what he says to them: He says, “you are about to reap where you did not sow.” Notice what Jesus is identifying there one field, but two seasons and two types of workers. You have a sowing and reaping season—gardening and a harvesting season. You have sowers and reapers; you have gardeners and harvesters, and unless the gardening is done well, the harvest isn't going to happen. So my encouragement is: in tough situations, focused on the gardening, not on the harvesting. Don't worry about that. When the gardening has done well, the harvest is easy because ripe fruit falls right into the basket. Number two: Use questions to make headway while still staying safe Questions are your main gardening tools. Why questions? Well, first of all, they're polite. You're showing an interest in the other person. You're drawing that person out. You're understanding what they think as they talk. Good manners. But secondly, what question students do is they help you gather information. you don't know about this individual or maybe about the details of their views, And so, as you're asking questions, you’re getting more information that will help you to know how to move forward. A third thing that questions do is they force other people to think about exactly what they do believe. Lots of times people haven't thought through the slogans that they use to oppose you. This requires when you ask questions that they think more about it and they understand more clearly what their ideas entail. You need to know that they need to know that. Most importantly though, is that questions put you in the driver's seat of the conversation, and that's where you wanna be. You wanna be charge of the conversation, even though you're not doing all the talking. In fact, you're doing very little of the talking at this particular point. What you're doing is drawing them out. You're using the gardening tool that is most effective asking questions to draw them out and when you're doing this, your own views are not on the line—their views are. And if your own views are not on the line, you are safe. There is no vulnerability for you at this particular point. And you're directing the conversation the way you want it to go by the questions that you ask. So the next time, you're about to have a hard conversation, remember these two principles: Number 1: Think like you're planting a garden, not harvesting a crop and Number two: Use questions to make headway while staying safe For what would you say? I'm Greg Koukl with stand to reason.