Here’s a question you may have never asked yourself, how do you usually respond to others in conversation?
Not sure how to answer? I didn’t either when I was first asked, but Duane Elmer helpfully clarified it for me (and not without a good dose of conviction too):
Psychologist Carl Rogers said that there were five ways of responding to people in conversation. His research revealed that the most frequent response North Americans have in conversation is the evaluative response. That is, our responses are characterized by agreeing or disagreeing, by correcting any error we might detect, by giving a counterpoint, by saying “Yes, but…,” by changing the subject or by withdrawing. An evaluative response tends to either shift the conversation into debate or closes it down.
From here, Elmer cites the other four responses that we would all do well to cultivate in our daily conversations.
We can promote dialogue if we develop one or more of the other responding skills – probing, interpretation, support, or understanding. These contribute to a better communication and true dialogue.
Probing – Asking questions that go deeper into the topic.
Interpretation – Saying back in our own words what we’ve heard the other person say.
Support – Best when feelings are being expressed and empathy is most appropriate.
Understanding – Asking for more clarification, illustration, or detail.
(Taken from Cross-Cultural Servanthood, p. 123.)
In what way do you most frequently respond to others? If your spouse or friend or child were to choose what they think your go-to response is, to which of the five would they point? How may you intentionally change your way of responding to others in order to better love and serve them?