Thursday, April 25, 2013

Instructing with Gentleness, Pt. 3

Is your method appropriate for the nature of the message?

Method covers everything from tone of voice and words that are chosen to the delivery mechanism itself. What I share here is more from experiential understanding than biblical revelation. As such, I am not dogmatic in this, but I offer my thoughts to you as one who has been on both sides of true messages delivered with poor methods.

In my experience, the biggest mistake people make in this area is trying to deliver a weighty word of correction over email. It's been said that less than 10% of what you say are the actual words themselves and that the rest is body language and tone of voice*. And for whatever reason I have yet to determine, when body language and tone of voice are absent, as they are in an email, we tend to fill in the worst possible assumptions about the intended tone of the message. What may truly be a message motivated by love for that individual cannot be properly expressed with a simple "I'm saying this in love" written in an email. A phone call is better, but face-to-face is best.

As for tone and the words chosen, I think that Luke 6:45 applies here.

A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

We will address this more when we get to motivation, but for now, it is enough to consider that if you really, truly love the person you are attempting to instruct with gentleness, it should be evident in your tone and the words you say, as well as your other actions towards and interactions with that person. As a general rule, if you have to say with your message "I'm saying this in love," then chances are that's not really true or the other person won't receive it that way.

One final thought on method. I am a direct person. When I have something to say, I say it, and sometimes that gets me into trouble. On the other hand, my directness has a way of working through the barriers that people try to place around themselves and getting to the heart of the matter. I encourage you to be as direct as you feel comfortable being, perhaps even a bit beyond your comfort level. If your message is true, your mindset sound, your motivation pure, and your moment right, then directness in your method will likely be received well, and it has the added benefit of genuineness that can greatly improve receptivity to your message.

*The psychologist that originally identified this idea, Albert Mehrabian, made a point of saying that his findings should only be applied when people are discussing feelings and attitudes. While a message of correction itself is about truth, the emotions and attitudes of both people involved play a significant role in how that message is received, so I think Mehrabian's ideas apply here.