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From the Pastor’s Desk:

How to Know a Person

Recently I read the book, How to Know a Person, by David Brooks.  I found this book to be a fascinating read with a message that needs to be proclaimed in our culture today.  David Brooks is an American political and cultural commentator who writes for The New York Times.  He is also a commentator for NPR and PBS NewsHour.  

In an interview with PBS, David Brooks says about the book: 
And this book is really an attempt to make us all better at seeing another person, making them feel seen, heard and understood, because, if our country is going to come back from the inhumanity, and if our families are going to come back from the breakdown, and if our workplaces are going to thrive, we just have to be really good at this skill of seeing others, making them feel valid, respected, heard and understood.

It is sort of sad that we need a book that teaches us how to get to know a person.  In many ways, we may be good at talking AT each other, but we are not used to talking WITH one another.  It is only when we truly engage in conversations with each other that we get better at seeing the other person and making them feel seen, heard and understood.

One key point that David Brooks uplifts for how to know a person is first to listen.  To Truly Listen.  To often we only listen enough to formulate what we are going to say or refute what the other person is saying.  Rather we need to clear our mind and not be thinking about what we are thinking, so that we can listen deeply to the other person.

Another key to getting to know a person is to ask questions.  And not yes or no questions, but probing questions about what they are saying.  When you ask a question to a person which takes the conversation deeper, it communicates that we are listening, we care about what they are saying and that what they are saying is of value (whether or not we agree with the person).  In the book, the author advocates asking questions about their childhood and significant times in their life.  These stories that the person tells will communicate a lot about the person and will general make them feel seen by the person they are talking with.

How often do we do this?

Last December during the Adult Sunday School Class, we had several weeks where we used cards with pictures on them to answer some questions.  As people shared, many times they told stories about times in their lives and everyone learned something new and significant about the person sharing.  Doing this in a group can be helpful in getting us used to sharing and telling stories about ourselves and listening to other share their story.  This is what David Brooks advocates which he believes will help us as a society be better and move us in a more positive direction as a country.

I also have started having confirmation students have conversations with their baptismal sponsors that center on questions of faith and how we live out what it means to be a follow of Jesus.  Again, these conversations are to help get these type of conversations started and actually having them.

I encourage you in the weeks to come to think about how well you know others around you.  And then seek to get to know them better.  Be intentional about having deep conversations with others and don’t be afraid to ask questions of others and work at enabling them to know that they are seen, heard and understood.  If we did more of this, we might just change the world.