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How to Have a Conversation: Engaging Controversial Topics

What Would You Say?

You're in a conversation with a coworker and they're pretty vocal about a controversial topic. You want to say something, but you're having a hard time gathering the confidence to respond. What would you say? In our last video on how to have conversations, we talked about the importance of using questions to navigate the discussion. Questions are a risk-free way to engage in a conversation, giving you latitude, liberty and effectiveness, without assuming too much responsibility. They can be used to engage a close friend or a complete stranger. The next time you're in a conversation and don't know how to proceed. Here are three things to remember: Number one: Don't immediately try to answer the challenge or run from it If you try to answer the challenge right out of the gate, presuming you know how, you are taking all of the responsibility on yourself, the ball is in your court now. And when you speak you’re laying out information, you become vulnerable to attack from the other side. You don't want to go there yet. What you want to do is use another technique to let the other person do more talking. And that brings us to the next point. Number two, gather Intel about the challenge. In other words, gather more information you want to learn as much as you possibly can about the other person's viewpoint. Let them talk. If there are ambiguities in what they say, ask more questions. Be a student of their point of view. Number three: Always asked for clarification with some form of this question: What do you mean by that? Now there are variations, but the point is you want them to give you particular detail about what they believe. “What do you mean by that?” “I’m not sure I understand that.” “Help me to understand this particular point a little bit better.” “Do you mean this or do you mean that?” Notice that the conversation is casual, It's warm, it's interactive, it's not condescending. It's not challenging. You are showing an interest in that person's view, you are gathering information and that is key to this stage. For example. You're talking with someone about homosexuality and they say, “I was born gay.” Now, what am I going to do? I'm not going to answer the challenge. I'm not going to run from it, but I'm not going to say “no, you weren't.” I'm going to ask a question. I'm going to gather information from them. I'm going to use some form of the question. “What do you mean by that?” “So you think you were born gay. Explain to me how that works.” Now. They might be suggesting that their genetics dictated their homosexuality. They might be suggesting that they've always felt gay ever since they can remember, those are two separate issues and require different directions to go, but you don't know what direction to go unless you have that information. You get the information by asking the question, “What do you mean by that?” Another example, somebody comes up to you and says, well, that's just your interpretation of that Bible passage. Don't answer the challenge. Don't run from it, but rather gather more information. Use some form of the question, “What do you mean by that?” Now they could mean two different things here, and you need to know what they mean to know which direction you're going to go in the conversation. They might mean, “You have your interpretation of that Bible passage, I have my interpretation, they have theirs and all the interpretations are equal.” In other words, they're relatively sizing the text. Okay. Everyone has their own truth about it. Or might mean that “you have an interpretation of a Bible text and your interpretation is just wrong. Look more closely at the text and you'll get the right information.” Okay. So those are two different angles that your question now, what do you mean by that is going to help reveal. So the next time you're about to engage in a hard conversation, remember these three things, Number one: Don't immediately try to answer the challenge or run from it. Number two: Gather Intel about the challenge. Number three: Always ask for clarification with some form of this question: “What do you mean by that?” For what would you say? I'm Greg Koukl with Stand to Reason.