Rick Warren - Creating Life-Shaping Conversations
How are you doing today? Have I told you lately that I love you? I do, and I wanna say hi to all of our saddleback campuses, if you'll take out your message notes inside your program. So much of your satisfaction and success in life is determined by how well you communicate with other people. Your income. Your influence. Your family. Your career. Your relationships. So many different areas of your life are all impacted by how well you learn two basic communication skills. They all are dramatically impacted by number one, learning how to listen well, and number two, learning how to speak well. How to communicate your thoughts. If you want a better and better life. If you want better and better relationships. Then you have to keep getting better in these two skills. You have to learn to get better at listening, and you have to learn to get better in speaking.
If you just get at a certain level and then you stop learning how to be a better listener, you stop learning how to be a better speaker, then your life isn't gonna get any better. Your relationships are not going to get any better. This is extremely important. So today I want us to look at creating life-shaping conversations. And in that we're gonna look at how do you listen better so people will speak to you, and how do you speak better so people will listen to you? I'm gonna give you an entire communications seminar in this session. You'd go pay 500 bucks for it at some seminar. It's free with Rick. You get it free. Then you don't have to spend that 500 bucks on how to be a better communicator. So we're gonna look at these things.
Now we're gonna start with the six secrets of great listening. Now the book that's the book of all books on communication is the Book of Proverbs in the bible. It's the book of wisdom. It's the book of relationships. It's the book of how to do the right thing the right way at the right time in every single area of life. It's an amazing book and it has a lot to say about how you listen and it has a lot to say about how you speak. Now one of the many reasons why God put you on Earth, He didn't just create you and take your automatically to Heaven. He put you here for a few years, few decades, because He wants you to learn the skill of learning how to listen well. And then He wants you to learn the skill of learning how to communicate well, how to speak well.
Now can you hear something and not really listen to it? Think about that, can you hear something and not really listen to it? Yeah, it's called high school math class. You hear it, it's wah wah, wah wah, wah wah, wah wah, but you're not listening. There's a difference between hearing and listening. Everybody hears everything, but not everybody is a good listener. So the bible tells us how to be a skilled listener. About 25 times in the Book of Proverbs God says I want you to learn how to listen. And we are commanded 25 times to listen well. So we're gonna do a quick overview, a quick survey, of some of the highlights of the Book of Proverbs on learning how to listen well. Six skills in order to listen well. And just for fun, I put them in an acrostic L-I-S-T-E-N. So here's how you listen, okay?
Let's get right into it, number one. First thing God says about how to become a great listener is L, look at them with love. Whoever you're gonna have your conversation with. A child. A spouse. A friend. An ex. Somebody you work with. You look at them with eyes of love. It all starts with love. Without love, you have no great communication. Look at this verse on the screen. The bible says in First Corinthians 13:1 "If I could speak with human eloquence," I mean I'm just a great speaker, "And even angelic expression. If I don't have love for people, I'd only be making noise like a clanging symbol".
God says words without love equal noise. That if I don't love, it doesn't matter what the conversation is about. Because it's all about learning how to love. You could be eloquent. I have, I train pastors, you know that. And I've had pastors all around the world say to me oh Rick, I just love to preach. Like they expect me to be excited about that. And I say well so what? You may just like the attention. You might like the adrenaline rush. You may be a ham, you like the attention that everybody gives you when you're standing or speaking. I don't care if you love to preach, pastor. I wanna know do you love the people you preach to. That's what makes it count. Because without love I'm clanging symbol, I'm tinkling crystals, I'm just noise. I'm not even doing anything unless I love.
Now God says that you need to always speak in love. It's intentional that I tell you that I love you practically every week. 'Cause I want you to know that's why I do what I do. Nobody pays me to do this. I've served this church for free for 44 years. Nobody, I don't get a salary from this church. I do this because I love you. And that's what makes it have power. Now how do you communicate love in a conversation? Well you know how to do this if you've ever been on a date. You communicate love with your eyes. The way you look at somebody. Have you ever looked at somebody and they weren't loving you at that moment? Yeah. And have you ever looked at somebody and they were looking at you going man, they really love me right now. And they haven't said a word. Your eyes are a powerful tool for showing love. And if you're gonna have a conversation with a child, an important conversation, or you're gonna have an important conversation with anybody else, you start with looking at them in love. By paying attention because attention is love. When I pay attention to you, I'm saying I love you. When you pay attention to me, you're saying you love me.
Now Jesus modeled this. One day a young man, he was rich, he was a professional, he was a young man, and he comes to Jesus with a question. Here's what the bible says about it. Mark 10, Verse 21, Mark 10:21. "Jesus felt genuine love for the man as He looked straight at Him". Circle the phrase as He looked. He looked and He loved. He looked and He loved. So great communication, when you're gonna sit down with a face to face conversation, it starts with the way you look at somebody. They've gotta feel that you love them. They're not gonna listen otherwise. Proverbs 20 Verse 12, "God has given us eyes to see and ears to listen with". Notice He didn't say anything about the mouth there. In communication it's your eyes and ears that matter more than your mouth. He says we've got eyes to see, we got ears to listen, you should be looking for non-verbal cues.
Now how many eyes did God give you? Two. How many ears did God give you? Two. How many mouths did God give you? One. You should listen and look twice as much as you talk. That's the reason God gave you twice as much. The biggest problem in communication? We talk too much. We don't listen enough, we don't look enough, we talk too much. And the bible has a lot to say about this. Why do we talk too much? Because we love ourselves more than we love anybody else. And we like to hear ourselves more than we like to hear anybody else talk. Now God warns over and over again in the bible about talking too much. At least 10, 12 verses in Proverbs talk about the problem of talking too much. And He says first you gotta learn how to listen before you learn how to talk. Let me just show you a couple verses about talking too much, look up here on the screen.
The bible says this. Proverbs 10:14. "The wise don't tell everything they know, but the foolish talk too much and are ruined". Look at the next one. The bible says, Proverbs 10:19, "The more you talk, the more likely you are to sin". Duh. Law of averages. Proverbs 13:3, "Talk too much and you're done for"! Proverbs 13:3. Look at this one, Proverbs 18:21. "Those who love to talk will have to eat their own words". Yup. How many of you ever had to do that? Yeah, we've all done that. Proverbs 10:19, Living Bible. "Don't talk to much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow"! I love that in the Living Bible. I love that verse so much that when my kids were little I wrote a song for it. And I would sit down at the piano in our house and we would all sing this song. "Don't talk too much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow".
I still know that verse from heart. 30 years later, okay? If you're a parent, one of the ways to teach your kids scripture is make up a little song about it. Why? Because I want them to say there are times you can talk too much. Look at this one, I love this one. Proverbs 20:19. "Don't associate with a person whose mouth is always open". Last week we talked about the kind of friends to have and not to have, don't associate with a person whose mouth is always open. They're gonna get you in trouble. The problem with looking at people in love is that we just talk too much.
Now here's the second skill. The I in listen is invest as much time as needed. If you're gonna learn to be an expert listener, you not only start with looking at them in love, but then I, you invest as much time as needed. Because the truth is you can't listen well in a hurry. If you're in a hurry, you're not ever gonna be a great listener. Great listening takes time. You have to slow down. The truth takes time.
Now a good example of this is Job Chapter Two. You know the story of Job, he was a wealthy man, we mentioned him last week in our last message. Job Chapter Two he lost everything. In Verse 11 to 13 it says this. "When Job's three close friends heard of the tragedy that Job had suffered, they got together and they traveled from their homes," they didn't actually live in the same town, "they traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Then they sat on the ground with Job silently for seven days and nights. And no one said a word. For they saw that his suffering was too great for words".
Now this passage is packed with truths, but let me just point out a couple of them. This is called the ministry of presence. One of the things that I teach pastors, and I would teach you, is that when you're dealing with somebody in pain, the deeper the pain, the fewer words you use. Don't ever forget that. The deeper the pain someone is in, the fewer words you use. If somebody's having a bad hair day, or they're just feeling a little gassy or something like that, you can talk to them about it for 30 minutes. But if they have a major crisis in their life, a spouse walks out, a child dies, they get laid off after 15 years, the deeper the pain, the fewer words you use. A lot of people go I don't know how to react to a person in a crisis, I don't know what to say. Don't say anything. Show up and shut up. That's the ministry of presence.
When people say I didn't know, I didn't go see them 'cause after this tragedy in their life, I didn't know what to say. Don't say anything. There's some pain that is beyond words, and that's what it's saying there. When you have a friend, or a child, or something like that, you don't try to talk them out of their pain. You show up, you shut up, you do the ministry of presence, and the fewer words you use. But you invest as much time, notice how many days did Job's friends sit on the ground with him? Seven. That's a real friend. Do you have anybody in your life who'd sit on the ground with you for seven days without saying anything? That takes a very mature person. They're just, we're gonna be with you in your pain. Have you ever had to spend a long period of time with someone and not say anything? That's the mark of a true friend. You invest as much time as needed. Because you can't listen in a hurry. You just have to be there. And when it's the right time they'll say something, and when it's the right time then you'll be able to say something too.
So L in listen, look at them with love. I in listen is invest as much time as needed. Number three, the S in listen is share their feelings, not your solution. Share their feelings, not your solution. A lot of times you'll have a conversation with a child who's had a really bad day at school, or a spouse whose had a really bad day at work, or a friend and a neighbor, or a relative whose had a really bad last six months. One of the problems with us as human beings is we like to fix things. We all wanna be fixers. And what God wants you to do before you're a fixer, He wants you to be a feeler. He wants you to feel the pain they're feeling before you try to fix the problem. Share their feeling. Whatever they're feeling. Before you try to fix. A lot of times a child will come to you, or a teenager will come to you, and they'll say I have this problem, and you remember how it was a big deal when you were that age, but it's not a big deal for you anymore, and so you try to talk them out and say well it's not really that big a deal.
Well that's just very unloving. Because it is a big deal to them, and if you love them it will be a big deal to you. So you share their feeling. You don't share your solution. As I said, men in particular, we're fixers. And I didn't understand this for many years, Kay would come to me with a problem, I thought she wanted me to fix her problems. I learned much later no, she just wanted to talk about them. And she wanted me to go that's a problem. Wow. I don't think I've ever seen one that big. Woo, man is that a problem. Wow! It's no wonder you're worried about it, it's no wonder you're discouraged about it, it's no wonder you're feeling down, that is a problem babe! Woo-wee, that's a problem! Man oh man, that is a problem.
And you know what? Sometimes, if I actually made a mistake and actually did that without thinking, she'd walk away going that's all I needed. I just needed my husband to understand what a tough day I had. I didn't need him to fix anything. But we typically are quick to the fix. That means you're not listening. It is my typical nature that if somebody comes to me with a problem, they're barely into the fourth or fifth sentence and I'm going I know how to fix this. But that's not loving. We all wanna be fixers, but first people wanna be understood. People don't care what you know until they know that you care. They wanna feel love, they wanna feel understood, they want you to feel what they're feeling and they want you to validate, yeah, I get it. I see why you're worried, why you're upset, why you're frustrated, why you're angry. Whatever emotion you're feeling, I need to mirror that, I need to share their feeling, not the solution.
Here's what the bible says. Proverbs 18, Verse 13. "Anyone who answers quickly without listening," that's what I'm talking about, getting to the fix first. The solution. "Anyone who answers quickly without listening first is both foolish and insulting". So let me just say this. When anybody comes to you. A friend, a family member, somebody else. Somebody in your small group. Listen and feel their feelings before you try to fix anything. Don't get to the fix, just wait. Even if you know the solution. Don't tell it. Just. Wait. Let them share all they need to share. There is healing in sharing. There is healing in being able to have somebody listen to you. Your ear is a healing tool used by God. If you'll let God use it. If you'll learn to listen to people without trying to fix them first. Many of them will be healed right there on the spot simply by being listened to. Because they weren't paid attention to at maybe some other point in their life. Share their feelings, not the solution.
One of the best examples of this is the death of Lazarus. Lazarus was the brother of two women in the bible named Mary and Martha. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were good friends of Jesus. He often, they lived in a town called Bethany, and when He would go to Bethany He always stayed with Mary and Martha and Lazarus. And one day Jesus was just about a half a day away from Bethany, it's not very far from Jerusalem, and He gets word that Lazarus is sick, and I mean deathly sick. He's on his deathbed, he's going to die. Jesus is a half a day away, it takes Him three days to get there. This is one of His best friends, Lazarus. And people don't understand, why'd it take Him so long? 'Cause He has a plan, He doesn't wanna heal him, He wants to raise him from the dead. So He's actually hanging out. He has a plan. He knows what He's gonna do, He already knows the solution even before Lazarus gets sick. But finally He shows up three days later, by this time they've buried the guy and he's dead and he's in the ground, he's already in the tomb.
And the bible says this, in John 11:32-36. "Mary fell at Jesus' feet and she cried out Lord. Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died," in other words I know you could've healed him. But he's dead. If you'd just been here, he would've lived. But now he's dead. Now when Jesus saw her, Mary, weeping, along with many others who were weeping, "He was deeply moved". Circle that, "deeply moved". He's sharing their feelings. "Where have you buried his body, Jesus asked". "Come and see, Lord, they replied". And then the next two words are the shortest verse in the bible. Here's our memory verse this week. "Jesus wept". That is the shortest verse in the bible. It's John 11:35. Everybody say John 11:35. And what is John 11:35? Jesus wept. And where does it say in the bible Jesus wept? John 11:35. You just memorized a bible verse. Shortest one in the bible, but it's also one of the most significant ones 'cause it shows that Jesus sympathizes.
Jesus weeps, Jesus cares. He's not unconcerned about your pain. And when Jesus saw everybody else around Him weeping, what did He do? He mirrored it. He mimicked it, He entered it, He shared their feeling. Even though He knew the solution! Jesus already knew He was gonna heal this guy. That He actually was gonna resurrect him. He knows why He's doing what He's doing, He knows why he delayed. He's gonna prove that He's the son of God by resurrecting Lazarus. He knows in advance the solution. And He walks in and everybody's weeping and everybody's crying and everybody's grieving. And Jesus does not say everybody stop it, stop crying, I got the solution. He doesn't say that. He doesn't say everybody stop grieving. I'm gonna heal the guy, I'm gonna raise him from the dead, watch this. No, He doesn't do that.
What does He do? He weeps with them. He weeps with them. That shows the sympathy, empathy, and compassion of our Savior. He already knows the solution. But what is He doing? He's sharing their feelings, not His solution. This is the principle of the story of Lazarus. And if Jesus did it, He was gonna heal him, certainly you may know the solution, hold off. If you're gonna be a great listener, you gotta listen to their feelings and enter into that, does this make sense? This is how you become a great listener. I look at them with love, I invest as much time as needed, I share their feelings, not my solution, even if I know I can solve it. I don't share it yet. I just share their feelings and I enter into their grief. And that's what Jesus did.
Here's number four. The T in listen stands for tune in. Tune in to any fear or hurt beneath the words. What people are feeling is far more important in a conversation than what they're saying. And what they're saying is often not exactly what they're feeling. But a lot of times they're saying one thing and they're feeling another, and if you're gonna be a great listener, you have to look past their words, past the things they're saying, 'cause sometimes what they're saying is offensive. Because they're hurt. Or sometimes what they're saying is 'cause they're afraid. They're insecure, they're fearful. And when people get angry, it's usually 'cause they're either frustrated, hurt, or fearful. You know what? It's a whole lot easier to be with people when you know they're frustrated, or they're hurt, or they're fearful, than it is when they're angry. You're not very sympathetic to people who get angry at you. But you are sympathetic to people who are fearful. And you are sympathetic to people who are hurting. And you are sympathetic to people who are frustrated.
And so if you can look past the words, in fact sometimes in a conversation to be a good listener, you have to ignore the words and look at the emotion. And go what's going on here? I'm feeling this intensity come through on something that doesn't seem to me to be a really big deal. But clearly it's a really big deal 'cause I'm feeling the pushback, the blowback. And you have to ask is this hurt? Is this fear? Is this frustration? And you're looking beyond the words. You look, when you tune into any fear or hurt beneath the words, you're looking for the open nerve. Why are they so reacting this way? You listen for the pain. And sometimes the pain doesn't have anything to do with you. It's pain out of their past, but it's coming back at you in this particular situation. You look for the fear beyond the words. What is this called? This is called sympathy. Sympathy.
When you're tuning into the emotion. First Peter, Chapter Three, Verse Eight. "Be sympathetic, loving each other like a family, and be kind and be humble". When you're humble, you're opened to new ideas. When you're kind and sympathetic and loving, you don't blowback, they may get angry at you, you go this isn't really what they're angry about. What are they afraid of? What are they worried about? What are they anxious about? What are they fearful about? What are they frustrated about? What are they hurt about? If you're gonna be a great listener, you've gotta tune in to the fear or hurt beneath the words.
Number five, the E in listen stands for engage them with open-ended questions. Engage them with open-ended questions. Now what's an open-ended question? Well it's the opposite of a closed-ended question. A closed-ended question only requires a yes or a no. When you say where were you on the night of the 14th, that's an open-ended question. When you say did you do this, yes or no, that's a closed-ended question. If you're gonna learn to be a great listener, stop asking your children questions where they say yes or no. Those kind of questions aren't really helpful. If you really wanna understand your kids, your teenager, if you wanna understand your husband, you wanna understand your wife, stop asking closed-ended questions. Yes or no. Ask a question that requires more than one word. And requires a little bit more thought than simply yes or no. Because that's where you're gonna get to the deeper issues in the conversation. Be sympathetic, tune out the fear or hurt, and then engage them with open-ended questions.
Now I don't have to go into this a lot because we talked last week about the importance of questions in friendship. In fact I used this verse last week, Proverbs 20, Verse Five. "People's thoughts are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out". How do you draw them out? With questions. Particularly open-ended questions. What does that mean? Any question that doesn't answer yes or no. Just whatever, it's an open-ended question. Now there's a magic phrase, I want you to write this down, that will make you a master listener. And you need to use it over and over and over. With kids, with spouses, with friends, with anybody else, and it is the phrase tell me more. Write this down, tell me more. That is the magic phrase on how you draw it out of people. Out of grandchildren, out of anybody. Tell me more. You don't just say hey, tell me about what's going on, tell me about your day, and then they finish, and they might give you one or two sentences and then you say tell me more.
And then when they finish that you go tell me more. And then you keep doing that, tell me more, what are you doing? You're going deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper, and you're allowing them to express more and more and more. And a lot of times they don't really know if you mean it or not, and so if you say tell me more several times it says I'm really interested in you. I'm paying attention, and what is attention? Attention is love. So you say tell me more. With most people, whether it's kids or adults, you have to draw it out of them like a bucket out of the well, and you do that by asking open-ended questions, and then when they respond, then you say, once they finish, that's not all they're gonna say about it, tell me more. And you wait. And you have to learn to be patient.
Finally, number six in learning to be a great listener, the N in listen, is never judge until you have all the facts. Never judge until you have all the facts. This will make you a great listener. Proverbs has a lot to say about this too. God says I don't want you making snap judgments. I want you keeping an open mind. I don't want you to be presumptuous, I don't want you to presume, I don't want you to assume. Don't assume you have a clear picture. Wait until you're sure you have all the facts.
Here's the problem. Your kid or your husband or your wife or anybody starts talking to you about something, and you start feeling emotion about what they're saying, and you start forming an attitude either for that person or against that person based on that, and you don't even have all the facts yet. No, God says keep an open mind, don't prematurely evaluate, don't prejudge something, don't think you know everything in advance.
Proverbs 18, Verse 13 and 15 says this. "What a shame. Yes, how stupid. To decide before knowing the facts. A person with understanding gets the facts and the wise person listens to learn more". And the more you listen, the more you learn, and you don't judge until you have all the facts because assumptions and presumptions get us in trouble.
Now these are six golden rules for learning to be a great listener. All right, so now you're all gonna be great listeners. And here's your homework assignment. I want you to this week go through that list and check the one that you go this is the one I need to work on the most. Because you can't work on everything at the same time. But communication is not just listening, it's also speaking. So I need to quickly take you through the five keys of being a great speaker. I have taught some of this material literally all around the world, to about half a million pastors. I'm gonna give you a shortened version of how do you speak so that other people will listen. And it's S-P-E-A-K, five skills.
Number one, the S stands for this. Save it for the best time and place. Save what you're gonna say, your conversation that you know you need to have with your child or your spouse or a boss or whoever, save it for the best time and place. For great conversations, timing is everything. Have you learned this? That you can have a really good planned conversation and you shared it at the wrong time and how'd that go over for you? Not very good. One of the worst things is when you get in bed with your husband or your wife, you lean down and your spouse says honey we need to talk. That'll put the fear of God in any grown man. I just put my head on the pillow. Never drop a bomb in bed, okay? Save your bed for other things, all right? But discussions is not the place for, particularly tough discussions, not there.
Now save it for the best time and place. When's the best time? Not when you're at your best, but when they're at their best. Not what's the best time for you to share it. The best time to share something, to speak to somebody about something, is when they're at their best. Now with kids, you don't know when that's gonna be. Last week we talked about how kids are like clams, they open up and they close, they open up and close, you never know how long they're gonna be open. You can't schedule this kind of thing. That's why you have to be prepared in advance 'cause you can't schedule it, they're gonna open up, as Kurt said, there's a window of opportunity, and it's gonna shut down. So you have to be patient.
Here's what the bible says. Ecclesiastes 3:7, which was written by the same guy who wrote Proverbs, Solomon, the wisest man in the world, he says this. "There's a time to be silent and there's a time to speak". In other words there's times you need to speak up and there are other times you need to shut up. Wisdom is knowing the difference. Is this a good time to speak up, or is this a good time to shut up? While you're waiting for the right time to come, you keep your ears open and your mouth shut. And you don't spill the beans prematurely. Ecclesiastes Eight, Verse Six, says this. "There's a right time and a right way for everything, even though unfortunately we miss it for the most part". And how do you know when you've missed the right timing? You have conflict. Because they weren't ready for what you needed to share.
So how do I know the best time? Here's number two, pray and plan. Pray and plan. Pray what? Pray about what you're gonna say and how you're gonna say it, and plan what you're gonna say and how you're gonna say it. Now even Jesus did this. Even Jesus did this. In John Chapter 12, Verse 49, Jesus says "I have not spoken on my own power. Instead, the Father who sent me told me what I should say and how I should say it". You see, even Jesus didn't just go speaking on His own power. He would talk to the Father, Heavenly Father in Heaven, and the Father in Heaven told Him when He should say it, what He should say, and how He should say it. Now that's your God. God the Father. Don't you think if He told Jesus what to say and how to say it, He'll tell you what to say and how to say it? Why hasn't He done that? You haven't asked. You just haven't asked.
But before you go into any major meeting, before you have that important critical conversation with that child, with your spouse, with a friend, a neighbor, an employee or boss, you need to pray and plan. You need to do these two things in advance. You don't walk into a meeting unprepared without having prayed and without having planned. Now first, what you wanna do is you wanna plan. What that means is this. Proverbs 16:23. "Intelligent people think before they speak". In other words they put their mind in gear before they put their mouth in motion. "Intelligent people think before they speak. Then what they say is more" what? Persuasive. Now do you wanna be persuasive? Okay, here's how to be more persuasive. Plan what you're gonna say. Think it out in advance.
Now it says "Intelligent people think before they speak," which means planning is a sign you're smart. If you're walking into a major conversation with your spouse and you haven't planned it, that's dumb. That is not intelligent. That is not thought out. That is not wise. Intelligent people think before they speak. You plan it out, planning is a sign you're smart. And it says if you plan it, then you'll be more persuasive. How persuasive do you think I would be if I stood up here every week without planning what I was gonna say? If I got up here today and said well folks, I really intended to write a message to share with you, but there was a Brady Bunch marathon on. And I wanted to see what Greg and Marsha look like now. That wouldn't go for anything. I would have no influence, would have no preparations, and I would have no persuasion because I hadn't planned it. I hadn't thought it out.
Now here's what the bible says you do in your planning. Colossians 4:6. "Everything," circle that. "Everything you say," what's not included in that? Nothing. "Everything you say should be" two things. It should be kind and it should be well thought out. Friends, if you'll just practice that one verse, forget everything else I've taught today, you will become a master communicator. If you're kind and you think it out what you're gonna say, you're gonna be a great communicator. "Everything you say should be kind"! If it's not kind, you don't say it. "And well thought out. So that you know how to answer everyone". So the first thing you do is you plan. And the second thing you do is you pray. Like Jesus you say Lord, God, Father, teach me when to say it, teach me what to say, and teach me how to say it. Matthew 10, Verse 19 and 20, Jesus says this. It's the promise. "Do not worry about what to say or how to say it. Because at that time you will be given what to say".
This is Jesus talking here. You'll be given what to say. "For it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you". Wouldn't that be nice? You think it's gonna be better received if the Spirit of God's speaking through you? Of course it is. So He says you don't worry about it. Why? First I planned it, and second, I prayed about it. And I said God, tell me the right time, tell me the right place, and tell me the right way to say it. That's the P. I save it for the best time and place, what I'm gonna say, and then I pray and plan what to say and how to say it. The E in speak, to be a master speaker, is empathize with their needs first. Empathize with theirs needs first, the person you're having the conversation with. You don't start out with your agenda. You don't start out with your hurt. You don't start out with your complaint. You don't start out with your gripe. You don't start out with your problem. You start with them. What's their need? What's their hurt? What's their interest? What's their fear? Not yours. What's their problem? Not yours. You start with them.
Now here's another major verse in scripture on how to speak effectively. Ephesians 4:29. "Speak," the bible says. "Only," there's that word again. "Speak only," this is the only way you're supposed to speak. "Speak only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, so that it may benefit those who listen". He says the same thing four times. In order to get the point across. He says speak only what's helpful. That's one. Speak only what builds others up. Speak only according to their needs, and speak only what will benefit those who listen. That's pretty clear. He says you start with them. Now you're gonna get to your hurt at some point. You're gonna get to your need, you're gonna get to your frustration, or your fear, or your failure, or whatever it is in your life, but you don't start there. If you're smart. If you're wise, if you're a wise woman. You're a wise mother, a wise wife. Or if you're a wise man, you're a wise husband, you're a wise dad, you don't ever start with you. You start with them in any crucial conversation. Speak what is helpful for building them up, according to their need, that it'll benefit those who listen.
Now here's how you do this. When you sit down in the conversation, you say you go first. And you just let them speak without any interruption. You don't interrupt them, you don't ask questions, you don't ask for clarification, you don't challenge, you just let them speak. And if they speak for five minutes, or 25 minutes, or 35 minutes, you just let them speak. And here's the key, you take notes. You let them, and if they say something and you have a question about it, you write down the question. You don't stop them in the middle. You let them speak, and you have something you wanna challenge or you wanna correct? You don't challenge or correct them, you write it down on your thing. You just let them have a free flow. And you take notes, that shows you care. That shows you're aware. That shows you're paying attention.
One time Kay and I had a conversation about our marriage and I took nine pages of notes. I'm not kidding, I'm not exaggerating. Why? Because it was nine pages of stuff she needed to tell me. I needed, I've been married 44 years, why? Because we've been doing this for 44 years. I could prevent your divorce if you'll start doing this, okay? I can prevent your divorce. I used to do marriage counseling, I discovered as long as two people are talking, you can work something out. It's when people both give up the talking. That's true in nations, on international relations, it's true in a marriage. It's true between companies. As long as there's talking going on, you have the potential to make some progress. But I would write it, and I would just listen to her talk, and if I had a question I wrote it down, if I had a clarification I'd write it down, if I had a disagreement I wrote it down, but I did not interrupt her.
So you make notes, you let them go first, and then here's the key thing. You summarize what they said to you before you start. Write this down, summarize what they said to me. And you paraphrase it back. You say okay, let me repeat back to you what I think I heard you say. 'Cause I may have gotten it wrong, but here's what I think I heard you say, and you paraphrase back to your spouse, or to your child, or to your boss, or whoever it is, and that shows you're listening, your ability to summarize, and your ability to paraphrase and to parrot it back to them. This is the mark of a master communicator. You're listening well and you're gonna speak well. But you say let me say what I said back to you, what I think I heard you say, all right? Now that is the key, take notes, you empathize with them first. Okay, the A. The A in learning how to speak like a master communicator is to affirm the positive alternative. I'll have to explain this. Affirm the positive alternative.
What I'm saying is that when you, particularly at a conflict, you wanna be a proponent of what's right, not an opponent of what's wrong. You wanna be in favor of what we could be doing, not critical of what we're not doing. You wanna be positive. Be a proponent of the right thing and not an opponent of the wrong thing. Because negativity doesn't really change people very much at all. And so you be a proponent, you affirm the positive alternative. Let me say another way of saying it. Don't tell it like it is. Tell it like it could be. Big difference. Tell it like it is doesn't change anybody. It simply reinforces the negative. But to tell it like it could be builds on faith, it builds hope, and I get a vision of what we could, what our marriage could be. Not what it is. What it could be. I help my child see what they could be, not what they are, what they could be. Don't tell it like it is.
Study after study shows that whatever you hold up and people focus on, that's what they move toward. If you hold up all the negative, you tell everybody what's wrong in your relationship, you tell everybody what's wrong with the world, you tell everybody what's wrong, all that does is reinforce it. If I were sitting out there with you today and some guy got up here and started doing a message to dads and he started telling dads all the things that we do wrong as dads. And the guy goes you know what, you're a lousy dad. You guys aren't spending enough time with your kids, you're too involved in your work, you spend more time with your sports than you do with your kids, and they tell me all the negative things, you know what all the dads would be doing? Yeah, you're right.
We're not very good dads and we go home feeling pretty bad, pretty lousy, because you just reinforced all the stuff that we already know, and telling me what I already know, telling it like it is, doesn't change anything. But if a speaker gets up here, and I'm sitting out there, and the speaker goes I see in you guys the ability to be an incredible father. I see in you the fact that with God's spirit in your life, and if you'll build your life and family on this book, on the truth of God, you could become a godly man. And you would be a man that your wife adores. And honors. And that your kids look up to. And have nothing but respect for. You could be a man in the community everybody goes I want to be like that guy. That kind of message makes me wanna change. That helps me move. Show me what I can become, don't tell me what I am. What I'm just explaining to you right now is what makes Saddleback Church different from thousands of other churches. Because in a lot of other churches all they do, I've actually heard pastors say we just tell it like it is in this church.
Well that's lousy because it doesn't change anybody. You change people by telling it like it could be and then they see in faith what they could become. I could get up here every week for 40 years and I could say we're gonna do sin of the week, and this week we're against this sin and next week will be against that sin, and in two weeks we'll be against another sin, and we're all a bunch of sinners. Friends, that's not good news. That's not even news. We know that, I don't need to come to church and tell me when I'm doing wrong. I need to come to church and you tell me how to change it. How to fix it, and where I get the power to be different. Okay? For 40 years I've been telling you how to change it. With the power of the Spirit and the power of God's truth. And we don't tell it like it is 'cause that just reinforces the negative. You affirm the positive alternative.
Now here's what the bible says. Proverbs 15, Verse Two. "When wise people speak, they make knowledge" what? Circle that. "They make knowledge attractive". If you're wise you're gonna, when you have a conversation, you're gonna make what you say attractive, and I'm gonna teach you the three ways to do that in just a second. It makes it attractive. It doesn't take any wisdom at all to share knowledge. It takes enormous wisdom to make it attractive. There are a lot of unwise pastors, unwise schoolteachers, unwise politicians, unwise researchers and scientists, who can share knowledge. Anybody can share knowledge, but it doesn't mean the kids, or the students, or the members of the church are gonna be interested. It takes enormous wisdom to make knowledge attractive. He says if you're wise, that will make it attractive. So how do I make it attractive? Here's the three secrets. I'm gonna give, this is gold you guys. You need this. Here's how you make knowledge attractive.
Number one, share the benefits. So if you wanna make a change in your family, you better be ready to explain why it's gonna be beneficial to everybody. Not just you. But share the benefit. How is it going to help me? Every time I teach you you're going how's this gonna help me? Share the benefit. Number two, the second way you make knowledge attractive, is say it positively. Don't say it negatively, don't say it in a condemning, critical voice. That doesn't work. Say it positively. Okay? There are many many verses in the bible about this, about being positive in your speech. Here's one, Proverbs 16:21. Proverbs 16:21 says "A mature person is known for his understanding. The more pleasant his words, the more persuasive he is". You wanna be persuasive with your kids? You wanna be persuasive with your husband or your wife? You wanna be persuasive with clients? Or customers? The more pleasant you are, the more persuasive you will be. I say it like this, I'm never persuasive when I'm abrasive. I'm never persuasive when I'm abrasive. Because it just puts people in a negative mood.
Now tomorrow you go to some store and you're gonna get something, and it's not right, and the clerk at work is a jerk. I'm a poet, and I don't know it, but my feet show it 'cause they're longfellows. So the clerk at work is a jerk. Now if they got your order wrong, are you gonna get better service from them if you complain and act like a jerk yourself? No. But if you're polite, and you're generous, and you're gracious, and you cut them some slack, are they gonna bend over backwards? More likely. More likely. You're never persuasive when you're abrasive. So you may be mad, that's not the time to have that conversation. You need to calm down. You share the benefits, you say it positively.
In fact write this down, here's a phrase I want you to get. If I say it offensively, it will be received defensively. I could get up here and offend you every week. I could say things that would put you on the defensive instantly. But I'm smarter than that. 'Cause I wanna help you change, and because I love you, I'm not interested in putting you down, I'm interested in giving you a hand up. Helping you out. So if I say it offensively it will be received defensively, it's gotta be positive.
And here's the third key to making knowledge attractive. Offer hope. Offer hope. You should always offer hope. In a conversation with a child, with a spouse, with a friend, with somebody at work, always offer hope. People are hungry for hope. Hebrews Chapter Six, Verse 19. "We," Christians, "have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure". If you offer hope, people will listen to you. Even when the sermon's long. All right?
All right, the K, here's the last one, is keep calm and don't argue. This is the fifth thing in being a great communicator. Keep calm. They may something that just irritates you no end in the conversation, and really triggers you. They might say something, and you know what? Your spouse knows your triggers. Have you figured that one out? And you know your spouse's. It's not very loving to use them, but when we're not in a good mood we often do. Keep calm and don't argue, last two verses. Proverbs 17:27. "Those who are sure of themselves do not talk all the time". Those who are sure of themselves, that means you got self-confidence. You're not insecure. Any time you see somebody who talks all the time, talk talk talk talk talk talk, they got a blabbermouth, they are incredibly insecure. Insecure people talk too much. People who are sure of themselves, people who are confident, they don't need to talk. I know who I am.
"Those who are sure of themselves do not talk all the time, and people who stay calm have real insight". And you don't let people trigger you, they don't let people hook you. You don't let people move you to say you make me so mad, then you're saying you make me, you have the power to control my emotions. Don't argue, keep calm. James 1:19, we've talked about this verse literally hundreds of time in Saddleback. "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry". If you do the first two, the third's automatic. If you're quick to listen, and if you're slow to speak, you will be slow to get angry. The other problem is though that we do the opposite. We're quick to speak. In fact we wanna interrupt. We're quick to speak, we're slow to listen, and as a result we're quick to get angry.
Now here's your homework. Two things. One, I want you, as I said, to look over this list and check the one to go this is the one I need to work on first. 'Cause you can't work on everything at once. Second, identify a person in your life that you need to have that crucial conversation with. Whatever it's about. And then start preparing and praying, you can't schedule it, but you can prepare for it and pray, and at the right time God will teach you what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. Let's bow for prayer.
Father. I so badly want our Saddleback Church family to be filled with great communicators. And great conversationalists. You have given us, your children, the greatest message in the universe. The good news. But we've not always been great at sharing it. And we haven't always been great listeners first. I'm asking you, Lord, to help all of us. Be better listeners and better speakers this next week. Help us to have some healing conversations in our church family. Between parents and kids. Between husbands and wives, between friends, between small group people, between people who have irritated us. I'm asking you for some real breakthroughs in relationships.
Now I'm asking you to pray. Say:
Lord, help me to listen better to the people in my life. Help me to look at people with love in my eyes. Help me to invest as much time as needed. Not get in a hurry, to be patient. To take the time for meaningful conversation. Help me to not be too busy to talk. Help me to share what they are feeling, not my solution. Keep me from being a fast fixer. Help me to tune into any hidden hurt or any hidden fear that's behind the words, and sometimes I need to ignore the words and just look at the feelings. Help me to engage people in my life with open-ended questions. And help me to never judge. Until I have all the facts. And then Lord, in speaking to people in my life, help me to save my words for the best time and place. Help me to pray and plan. What to say, how to say it, when to say it. I wanna be smart, I wanna be intelligent. And help me to empathize with their needs first. Not my agenda, not my hurt, not my frustration. Help me to affirm the positive alternative. Not to tell it like it is, but to tell it like it could be. The dream, the vision, the goal, the hope for our relationship. Help me to keep calm and not argue. Jesus, I need your spirit to do this, I can't do this on my own. But I want to. And I'm asking for your help. If you've never invited Christ in your life say Jesus Christ, come into my life right now. And be the chairman of the board, the manager, of my life. I humbly ask this in your name. Amen.