How you answer questions put to you (by anyone) is very important. Therefore, think very carefully how you answer questions. For example, your friends may know you well and understand your sense of humour, but no-one else have a clue why you said what you said. Make sure your answers ooze respect, and there are a number of ways in which you can do that:
* Answer the question that was asked – NOT the question you THOUGHT was asked.
* Don’t give a rambling answer to a question that only needed a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.
* Don’t answer a question that wasn’t asked; that may be their next question.
* Don’t use a one word answer for a question that needs response in some depth.
* Be aware of who else is in earshot, and think about them as you answer.
* Think about circumstances when you answer a question.
* If you are in a burning building and someone asks you where the fire escape is, it is not a good idea to give them a ten minute rambling answer.
* Show respect in your answer in order to remind yourself who you are speaking to.
* Show a respectful eagerness in your answers.
* Don’t force anyone to squeeze information out of you when you should have given that information in the first place.
* ALWAYS respect confidentiality.
* Don’t use an answer as an opportunity to attack other people.
* Remember that words spoken cannot be recalled – your mouth does not have an ‘undo’ button…
F. GOING BEYOND REQUIREMENTS
Our thinking is both affected by, and effects the whole of, our lives. This is nowhere so as true as it is with regard to our relationships within the context of Christianity in general, and church in particular. It is so easy to say that we live to serve other people, but it can get very difficult when the consequences of such a statement are brought home to us. We are very often told what is required of us as Christians, but how do we go beyond mere requirements and give that which is not required or demanded?
Serving other people always gives us an insight into our own character, and it can sometimes reveal parts of us that we did not know existed, or that we thought that we had dealt with. One thought here is that whatever is required of as Christians is not a target to be achieved, but the starting point of true service. Therefore, what is required of us is not something to be achieved and applauded, but that foundation on which we base our lives of service.
It is good to learn when it is appropriate to speak, and when it is best to keep quiet. We should not be afraid of silence, and that is equally true in whatever context that we find ourselves in. The deeper the relationship, the fewer words are needed. Yet, silence can be so uncomfortable for some people. If nature abhors a vacuum, how much more does talk abhor silence! A deep relationship is one in which both (or all) people can be comfortable in silence.
At the heart of all relationships is respect. Respect for the other person. Respect that recognises the worth of the other person, and is (relatively) unconcerned with position or status. Even in a business environment, is it always necessary to pull rank? Or to raise your voice?
The person that you are speaking to about a particular situation may have more information about that situation than you do. They may be aware of factors that mean that the logical path is actually not the best way to go on this occasion. Are we ready to give way and, if necessary, to be directed?
Paul Simon wrote and recorded a wonderful song called “Tenderness”. You will find it on his album “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon’. It is worth listening to every day in life, and absorbing the wisdom in the song. Our thinking affects our attitude and our attitude affects our thinking.
Are we tender when we speak to people? Are we gentle both in the choice of words that we use and in the way that we say those words? Are we careful to not let our own prejudices and preferences colour how we receive from other people? We must not only seek confirmation for our own opinions or ideas, but be open to persuasion and convincing without being rude or aggressive in defending our own position.
J. IN CONCLUSION
Let’s be a thinking people who are quick to learn and slow to teach. Let’s be a thinking people who value people and who value what they have to give more than we value what we are and what we have to give. Let’s be a thinking people who strengthen, encourage and support other people. Let’s be human. Let’s think. The load isn’t too heavy to bear.