Have you said something that was received with a surprised look, hurt, or even anger? I know I have. Fortunately, when this happens I have people around me that make me aware and those on the receiving end have been kind enough to forgive. There are times, though, when things are said that are offensive and insensitive that can lead to rifts in relationship if not quickly addressed. That’s what I would like to address here.
4 ways to build redemptive relationships
Listen to understand so that you learn where a person is coming from. This is easier said than done. Before you form a judgment – stop, remain curious and ask questions. When you feel the urge to share your own thought or relatable story, decide instead to listen and understand.
If there is one thing that followers of Jesus need to lead the way in, it is the art of empathy. With the ability to put yourself in another person’s position, you can earn the right to ask questions. The only way to do this is by getting into the muck and mire of people’s lives. Watch Brene Brown on Empathy.
3. Nurture Trust
This is vital. Until you have implemented the first two, listening and empathizing, you will find it challenging to build trust. Nurturing trust is not a one-time event, but a repeatable process that needs to be reinforced.
4. Contextualize your message
What about when you have something to say? There is a nagging question in the coaching community about feedback and it’s true, sometimes it’s important. We cover that topic in the post Coaches and Timely Feedback. If you are confident it’s time to speak up, remember to make sure what you offer is principle based and appropriately contextualized.
Paul was astute at relating to people from different worldviews than his own. Think of what he encountered throughout his ministry: navigating cross-cultural barriers, paradigms that were contrary to his, and an array of theological assumptions. A favorite example is when he encountered the “unknown God” in Acts 17:22-23
So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. “It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with. —The Message
Become a More Effective Witness
Reflect on these questions to assess how you can adapt your approach and build relationships with people outside of the church.
- What values do I need to hold true to?
- Which issues are non-negotiables for me? Really?
- What issues am I willing to let go?
- What am I unwilling to risk in this conversation?
- How can I create a win-win for this conversation?
- What should I look for to determine if people are uncomfortable?
- How will I respond when I encounter a sensitive topic?
- What possible subjects will this person find potentially offensive?
- How can I share what I need to share in a way that it can be heard?
- Who else could I include?