“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
~ Proverbs 18:2
Recently, I have learned that in a conversation most people really just want to voice their own point of view and list all the facts that support why they are right or why the other person is wrong and should listen to them. But when both people greatly want to be heard, but neither is willing to listen, in the end, no one hears one another.
Listen to the other person.
When it comes to conversing with other people that have different beliefs than you, they will often ask you questions to either further their argument or better understand yours. They will often give you a scenario to set the stage for a question and then ask their question. Unfortunately, sometimes their actual question can get muddy and unclear during the scenario. The big temptation is to listen only partially and answer the question that you thought you heard, rather than the one they actual want you to answer.
If we don’t truly understand what the other person wants us to answer, then it will make it hard for any conversation to successfully progress. You should ask refining questions. Questions that help you get closer to the meaning of their true question. Asking refining questions will also keep you from getting (and for lack of a better word… I’ll use a slang word) wrecked in a debate.
This is the single greatest question you can learn to ask someone: “What do you mean by that?”
Learning to ask this question, 1) allows you to slow the pace of a conversation down if the other person seems to be just trying to shoot out information rapid fire at you and 2) it allows you to fully understand the point the other person is trying to ask or make. 3) Asking this question also allows you to cross-examine another person’s information or facts and may allow you to spot fallacies or incomplete pieces of information that are being used by the other person. (The last two are the main purposes of the asking the question).
In my own personal experiences, I have found that when I use this question, I actually find that the true question they have is far different from the one they originally asked. Learning to ask good, pertinent questions is a skill that you should definitely learn when it comes to sharing your faith. This is one of the key skills that is vital to successful apologetics and it is one that has a very quick and simple application.
Next time you find yourself in any kind of discussion, if someone states information that you’re not 100% sure is correct, ask them “What do you mean by that?“, or if they ask a question and you’re 100% confident in what they’re asking about, ask them “What do you mean by that?“. Then, after carefully listening to their response, answer their question.
I hope this was helpful to you and that it comes in handy during many of your conversations. Now, go forth and be bold!