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Fear of Knowing What To Say

Abstract: A few simple questions, enabling honest commendation, can initiate meaningful conversations that can be used of God

We are discussing the fear of knowing what to say for a second time.

I’ve suggested this fear is unnecessary, since we don’t need to sit around wondering what Bible verse we are going to share, or what Bible study we are going to give, to someone we don’t know. Rather we are going to look for ways to affirm the person we are talking to.

In speaking of this Trumbull refers to it as the principle of HONEST commendation—put another way HONEST affirmation of a person’s value.

This honest affirmation or commendation can work wonders in opening up a person to a deeper conversation. But for it to work, it has to be HONEST commendation. Dishonest disingenuous words are easily picked up and stop conversations.

How does such a conversation work?

Here are some sample questions I use, for example, when I travel. “Is this business or pleasure,” followed by—if work “What kind of work do you do?” or—if pleasure “I hope you had a nice time. What were you up to?” My hope in asking these questions is to learn enough about the person to ask further, AFFIRMING questions. I like to also ask if a person is leaving home, and coming home.

Recently, traveling to California with my Mom, I found myself sitting in the same row with a woman to whom I asked the “coming home or leaving home” question. She told me she was returning home. Because it was just prior to Thanksgiving, I asked if she was coming home to lots of family. “No,” she responded, “I just flew my daughter out to see her dad for the holidays.”
“Oh,” it must be hard to not have your daughter so far from home.”

Being divorced and having done the same thing with my kids, it wasn’t hard to identify with her challenge of leaving a child with the other parent—I’m not throwing stones, it just isn’t easy sending your kids away. We had plenty to talk about, and soon we were talking about all areas of life—her job, her life, her family, her searching for a church and find one and why, etc. my giving suggestions on her job since I did related work at one time, AND matters of greater spiritual consequence.. Had I lived in the same town I could have easily invited her to be part of a small group and she may well have responded since she was still searching for friends in her location. As it were, I did get her email address before we parted, and also left her something I put together on overcoming depression—she wasn’t depressed but it speaks to the importance of cultivating an attitude of gratitude which is helpful to anyone.

At the airport, while waiting for a plane, we found ourselves sitting next to another woman and I asked the same set of questions. I learned she was heading west to help care for a sister who had become sick and was hoping to convince the sister to come home. My response was, “You are doing a wonderful thing; not everyone would.” Soon we were discussing how to help a person struggling with depression and the personal challenges and sacrifices required. It was obvious our new acquaintance was struggling. I happened to have the piece I had put together on depression (a testimony of a young adult which you can find at path2prayer.com in the practical living section under depression: Depression Testimony). She began reading it immediately and thanked me profusely for sharing it before we boarded, and assured me that it would be passed on to her sister. Of course the document included my web site information on the bottom.

The point is, we can have wonderful conversations with people if we will gently approach them on the basis of where they are in life, and looking for ways to genuinely affirm who they are and what they are going through.

I could have stated, “I want to share something from the Bible with you,” but I am almost certain it would have stopped the conversation immediately—even I feel a little uncomfortable when people start a conversation that way. Because I went to the trouble of convincing these two individual that I cared about them, and saw in what they were doing things of value, they responded very openly and we were able to talk like close friends.

I like this kind of witnessing. I hope you are doing the same kind of witnessing!