Thursday, January 9, 2020

The apologist's super-secret weapon

You have to meet people where they are
or they'll never get to where you are.

Part I of this article discussed paraphrasing as a secret weapon that anyone can use in apologetics or evangelism. All you have to do is repeat what the other person said in your own words. When done correctly, this method is so effective that often times the other person will reveal some personal details about their thoughts, beliefs, or actions, which can lead to some awkward moments.

Knowing this will happen is helpful to prepare you, but you also need to respond the correct way so that you don't shut down the conversation and damage the relationship. To help you be prepared, some possible confessions that come to mind are past or current affairs, murder, abortion or paying for someone to have one, having an intersex condition, homosexuality or same-sex attraction, being transgender, past sexual abuse, being in an open marriage, rape, war crimes, time in prison, drug use, and many many more.

Whatever you think is the worst possible thing a person could do, imagine someone confessed that to you and keep it in mind as you read the rest of this article (this is assuming they've served their time or are no longer a threat in potentially dangerous or criminal situations).

Super-Secret Tip
This "bonus" tool is always a good thing to practice, but it's mostly necessary because paraphrasing is so effective. If and when someone shares something with you that's very private, you have to prevent yourself from reacting with a negative tone of voice, look, or otherwise critical manner. If you show any trace of disapproval, you will shut down the conversation immediately and probably damage the relationship.

Psychologists call this unconditional positive regard. No matter what the person says, you need to respond positively or at the very least, neutrally. You don't have to agree with the person or condone their actions, which is going to be very tough for some of you to understand, but you still need to react in a non-negative fashion.

The hardest thing to control for most people in these situations will be your facial expressions, but you'll also have to watch your body language and keep yourself from blurting something out, including a laugh or audible gasp. An easy way to respond verbally is by paraphrasing, thanking the person for trusting you enough to share such personal details, or by asking how they feel about whatever they just revealed.

Conclusion
When someone share's an embarrassing or controversial detail about their life, they almost always already know you disapprove or might think they're abnormal so you don't need to respond with critical comments. This is true even when every bone in your body might be telling you to point out what you think their errors are (and it's probably your reaction telling you to do this, not the Holy Spirit's). Instead of correcting or debating, focus on making sure you understand their story and they feel safe. Once you've done this, you will begin to earn the right to respond, which is necessary if you actually want your words to make a positive impact on the other person.

We all have issues, some more severe than others and some just more taboo in our culture. Expecting someone to have their issues worked out before you will accept them is hypocritical and the exact opposite of what Jesus did. It's also a highly ineffective strategy, which also damages the reputation of all Christians.

Check out my articles on persuasive apologetics for more tips on increasing your effectiveness.

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