We might not be communicating

group-of-people-talkingFor the last several years I have made an effort to make friends who don’t look/believe/act like I do.

From racial to sexual to theological differences… I have made a lot of great friends.

I’ve spent a lot of time drinking coffee, eating sushi, and lifting weights with my friends. I’ve listened… and from time to time I’ve talked.

Over the last few years I’ve learned a few things, but perhaps the most important is something that’s been crystallized in the last few weeks.

Let me explain…

I am a heterosexual, conservative, white, middle class man. I have a set of presuppositions that I typically bring to any conversation. I have realized a problem though…

Many of my friends don’t have the same presuppositions.

If this is not taken into consideration, communication problems will ensue.

For instance, I base my decisions on what I believe God wants or doesn’t want. My friends who do not believe there is a God obviously don’t include Him in their decision making process.

Now here’s where the miscommunication happens…

In addition to being a friend, I am also a pastor. Every week I stand up and teach at Church180. I love being a pastor. I love teaching. I love talking about God and showing how His ideas work in our lives!

HOWEVER…

I make a HUGE MISTAKE if I assume that everyone in our church starts with the idea that there is a God… or that He is actively engaged in our lives. Not everyone believes this!

I’m realizing that if the church is not careful, we are going to be talking to a group of friends that have no clue about what we’re saying… because we’re not starting with the same set of presuppositions.

I presuppose that there is a God. I presuppose that humanity is made in the image of God but is broken by sin. I presuppose that Jesus was a real man who died for my sins, was buried, and resurrected to life three days later and now lives inside of those who believe in Him… empowering them to live lives of l0ve, courage, wisdom, self-control, etc.

I presuppose all of that. My friends don’t.

The result? Much of what I may say may not make sense to them… because we start with different presuppositions.

So how do we fix this?

Well, the last couple of years I have done a lot of listening. A LOT of listening.

I ask questions and then listen. I have listened to black men talk, gay men and women talk, atheists and agnostics talk… and I have learned… A LOT!

The more I learn, the more I realize I need to change my starting point in conversation and teaching from what I believe to what we believe.

No longer can I assume that everyone in the room has the same starting point as me. I must assume that many in the room will start with different presuppositions than myself. I must respect that/them, seek to find common ground, and start there.

How do I find common ground?

LISTEN! Listen to your friends who don’t believe, look, think, or act like you do… let them show/tell you what’s important to them… what they value… and start communication there!

We may be miscommunicating because we have not taken the time to listen!

To use the words of Steven Covey, “Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.”

Guaranteed to improve your teaching skills…

Yes, that’s right!

This piece of advice I’m about to share with you will greatly enhance your listenability and make you more effective as a teacher and speaker.

This advice comes from a pretty wise and persuasive teacher, Solomon.

Here it is…

The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction (Proverbs 16:21).

There it is! The words you use to present your material will go a long way to creating a pleasant learning environment!

In my opinion one of the best at this is Pastor Rick Warren. You can follow him on Twitterlearn more from him at his website and listen to his teaching on the Saddleback church website.

Thank you Pastor Rick for modeling so well this biblical idea of “pleasant words.”

If you’re new to this blog…

If you are a new reader of this blog let me say, “Thank you for swinging by!”

A few things you should know about this blog and me:

  • Jesus is my Leader.
  • Sherri is my wife.
  • We have five daughters.
  • I am a pastor.
  • I love UFC, politics, reading, and spending time with all of my ladies!
  • If you’re interested in traveling with me, let me make it easier for you:

    So why am I inviting you to this journey? Because I believe that life is a journey. I am a pastor and I’m traveling out loud and want to invite you to travel with me. By following me on Twitter, interacting with me through this blog and on Facebook you can see how a pastor lives. It’s not always pretty and it’s not always ugly. It’s just the real life of a man who’s seeking God and leading others to do the same thing.

    How to disappoint

    Benjamin Franklin writes about a man who had expressed confidence in him and promised to set him up in a printing business even at a young age. Franklin was excited and began preparation for this new venture.

    Long story short… the man proved to be more of a talker and less of a doer and left Franklin sitting in a heap of broken promises.

    Describing this man, Franklin wrote, “He wished to please everybody; and having little to give, he gave expectations.”

    I was processing those words this morning and thought:

    Fundamental rule of life: you are going to disappoint people. The “nice” thing is that you get to choose “who” and “how.”

    I would rather disappoint some people with the truth than I would all the people with unrealistic expectations.

    As an optimist, encourager, and leader, it is easy to see the “possible” and overlook the obvious.

    The better option is to look at the obvious through the lens of the possible. In other words, rather than starting with what “I want to be…” how about starting with “What is” and working towards “What I want to be.”

    Remember this, the Bible says, “To flatter people is to lay a trap for their feet” (Proverbs 29:5). Flattery, expressing unrealistic expectations, etc. sets people up for the inevitable crash, and when it happens they may not be as gracious as Ben Franklin.

    It is better to initially disappoint someone by being honest with them than it is to eventually disappoint them as they slowly realize the truth… the truth that you didn’t tell them. When they recognize the truth they will disregard you and likely themselves too, and no one wins under those circumstances; you lose credibility and they lose confidence.

    When you have to disappoint, do it with the truth.

    How to create humor in communication

    A couple of days ago, I read  a great article that was subtitled, “How the kings of funny keep people laughing — and coming back.”

    The first part of the article was a lot of historical context, and otherwise just a bunch of blah, blah, blah. The last paragraph and bullet points were the sugar of the article. These points should be memorized and implemented by every communicator!

    Here’s the sugar…

    “The team has spent years perfecting and refining its candy corn recipe, which involves taking something everyone knows of but rarely thinks about and basically making it funny. With the right amount of focus, you can make your own candy-corn-flavored content, too.

    • Identify your audience.
    • Know the events (good, bad, funny and in between) that have shaped their lives.
    • Create content that stems from those events.
    • Keep it short and simple.
    • Refine your message as you learn more about your audience.

    That’s GREAT stuff guys! Now go… be funny… and engaging… and change lives!

    If you want the “blah, blah, blah” you can read the entire article here.

    Leadership Communication

    “The biggest problem with leadership communication is the illusion that it has occurred.” That sentence has grabbed me by the throat and it won’t let go!

    Ron Crossland and Boyd Clarke write in The Leader’s Voice that leaders consistently make “four fatal assumptions” when they communicate:

    1. The people UNDERSTAND what I said
    2. The people AGREE with what I said
    3. The people CARE about what I said
    4. The people will take APPROPRIATE ACTION based on what I said

    Then they go on to make that “grab you by the throat” statement – “The biggest problem with leadership communication is the illusion that it has occurred.”

    The rest of this book is an explanation of how to more effectively communicate by using three essential “channels”:

    1. Facts
    2. Emotions
    3. Symbols

    Some other great takeways from this book include:

    • “When your passion declares the direction you will go, it unites those who would follow and divides those who will not.”
    • “Perfection of means and confusion of ends seem to characterize our age” Albert Einstein. My takeaway on that is that you can be going nowhere very well. It is critical to know where you’re going and then figure out the best way to get there. Efficient systems and processes without a clear vision are nothing more than a great way to effectively waste time.

    FACTS

    • “Communicating the facts well requires the same skill as good storytelling.”
    • “The leader’s communication job is more interpretation than recitation. Minimal data presentation and maximum interpretation usually converts boring to interesting.”
    • “Most leaders understand the facts but do not often take the time to create a compelling, memorable representation of what the facts mean.”

    EMOTIONS

    • “Finding temporary and specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope. Finding permanent and universal causes for misfortune is the practice of despair.”
    • “We believe that constituents will readily forgive most leadership faults. However, a lack of energy is seldom forgiven because it is perceived as a lack of caring or commitment.”

    SYMBOLS

    • “A leader without symbols is like Elvis without hips.”
    • “If you have to work hard to explain a symbol, it’s not an effective symbol.”
    • “Repeated usage during a short time frame may fatigue symbols, eroding their effectiveness. It’s like telling a too-familiar joke. Or having only one joke.”
    • “We hope you become skilled at all forms of symbolism, but learning to tell a story is mandatory. Many of your personal experiences can become useful stories by simply adding details, dialogue, and drama. “

    For more of this goodness you can buy “The Leader’s Voice” right here.

    When to correct

    I’m an advocate of truth-telling. I believe that we should love one another enough that we speak the truth into one another’s lives… even when it’s potentially painful.

    For instance, I have a friend, Duane, who shared with me his concern that I was missing opportunities to affirm one of my daughters. I’m pretty good at affirming, so at first I didn’t agree with him. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. I made the necessary adjustments and now I’ve “got my groove back”, and my little lady is affirmed in the “love language” that she best receives. If Duane hadn’t spoke truth into my life, the course of my daughter’s life could be quite different. Thank you Duane.

    Now here’s the thing, to speak truth into someone’s life you have to have credibility with them. This credibility is earned over time and through investments of love. If you love me and I know it, you can speak authoritative truth into my life. (Rindy has a great post on this topic here)

    Sometimes I have a tendency to think that everyone wants to hear the truth, but this morning I was reading in Proverbs (chapter nine), and came across some verses that identified a group of people that, even though you love them, you probably shouldn’t “correct” them by speaking truth into their lives. Check this out:

    7 Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult;
    whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.

    8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you;
    rebuke a wise man and he will love you.

    9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
    teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.

    12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
    if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.”

    A few takeaways from these verses:

    • There’s no point in “correcting” a “Know-it-all.” It only angers him/her and hurts you. You either have to tolerate or separate from these kinds of people.
    • “Know-it-alls” will soon lose all of their friends and be alone.
    • If no one ever “corrects” you… you might be perceived as a “Know-it-all.”