When communicating about controversial topics with those you disagree with how you say is just as important as what you say. Dr. Tim Muehlhoff shares several conversation styles of voices, or styles, we can use to effectively engage with those who think differently then we do.
The first voice is called the prophetic voice.
“It has biblical warrant. Jesus took the prophetic voice at certain times with the Pharisees and the religious leaders, but it’s not the only voice. The weakness of the prophetic voice is that it assumes that people buy the fact that the Bible is the Word of God. All we need to say is ‘thus says the Lord’ – and that ends the conversation.”
“Today, people won’t grant us that anymore. They will say they don’t believe the Bible is God’s Word, or they will disagree with your interpretation of the Bible because there are so many different ones.”
Dr. Muehlhoff thinks that we got into the habit of overusing the prophetic voice. He likens it to trying to find the bathroom while traveling abroad.
“You speak to someone who doesn’t really know your language so all you know how to do is to raise your voice.”
While the prophetic voice is important, it’s not always effective. Dr. Muehlhoff says that’s where the pastoral voice comes in.
“The pastoral voice takes time to understand how people feel about different issues. It’s not just about understanding the content, it’s about understanding what it’s like to be transgendered. What must it feel like to be in the position of those we disagree with?”
To illustrate, Tim uses the example of encountering a car accident on the road.
“You don’t run up to a car accident where people didn’t wear seatbelts and they’re injured and say ‘see, you should have worn your seatbelt.’ The pastoral voice is used to minister to those who are deeply hurting.”
It’s important to not get stuck in a rut of using one singular voice when talking to those we disagree with.
Tim Muehlhoff is a professor of communication at Biola University in La Mirada, California where he teaches classes in family communication, interpersonal communication and gender. He and his wife, Noreen, are frequent speakers at Family Life Marriage Conferences, and Tim has served with Campus Crusade since 1986. They live in Brea, California, with their three boys.
Key Scripture: Proverbs 16:7
Featured Songs: Whole Heart – Brandon Heath; Brother – Need to Breathe; For the One – Bethel Music
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