A well known national religious figure was filmed recently at one of a series of meetings he is conducting to increase turnout in the conservative Christian voting block. He said he is not promoting a candidate; he just wants more people to cast a ballot.
After thinking about what he said and how he said it, I concluded that I just saw modeled a terrific way to end open and transparent conversation. The speaker committed five errors that are guaranteed to put the skids on open talk – here in five bullets.
- Number 5. Dress and act superior. Use titles and posture to make sure folks know that you are the one in charge. Worry about image more than accessibility.
- Number 4. Control the context. Stand on a dais, never join your audience or otherwise appear to consider yourself to be vulnerable and equal. Come late and leave early.
- Number 3. Only talk to YOUR people. Don’t be shy about creating an insider/outsider relationship. Avoid losing control of the membership of your audience.
- Number 2. Never ask for an opinion; this is tremendously risky business. When people think you want them to share you may hear something you don’t like about your cause or yourself.
- Number 1. Use prejudicial, judgmental speech. The religious figure mentioned above used the word “heathen” to talk about those outside his group. If you were listening to his speech, you would have known where you fit in his world view.
A national discussion is occurring among churches who are witnessing a rapid decline in their numbers of members. Most are unaware or unwilling to admit that they are committing the five errors in their own context.
This very effectively shuts the door on building lasting relationships with those who no longer or never did feel like they belong.
If you want a good place to start, here it is. Sit in a circle with people who are not like you and listen. You’ll be amazed what you learn.