Responses that Stimulate Conversation

Here are some principles for participating in a discussion that will increase openness and decrease defensiveness.

1. When stating your position, you can preface your remarks with tentative statements.  You may be absolutely sure of your position, but when you preface a remark with a tentative statement, it promotes an atmosphere of openness and enhances the quality of the discussion.
  • I understand what you're saying, but let me tell you how I see it.
  • I'm just wondering, have you ever considered this _____________?
  • In my opinion...
  • How would you respond to this: ________?
  • Have you considered the evidence for __________?
  • Can I give you another option?
2. When you want another person in the group to say more you can respond this way:
  • I'm not sure I understand what you're saying, tell me more.
  • Is this what you're saying _______?
  • What do you mean by the term ________?
  • Can you explain (or illustrate) that?
  • How are you defining ________?
  • I'm not sure I see where the conflict is.
  • So essentially what you're saying is, ________.
  • It seems like you're saying, ________.
  • I understand what you are getting at.  You're saying _________.
3. When you want to express your disagreement...
  • What you're saying raises some red flags in my mind.
  • My perception of this issue is a little different.  Can I share it with you?
  • I'm not piecing together the facts in the same way.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but I see a conflict between - and - .
  • That would make a lot of sense to me, but...
  • This doesn't seem to fit with what you've said before.
  • I appreciate that perspective.  However, let me tell you how I view it.
4. When you agree...
  • That's really good.  I've never heard it put that way before.
5. When you partially agree...
  • I agree with you (state what you agree with) but I'm not seeing eye-to-eye on this other issue.
6. When you want to stimulate discussion...
  • Wait.  I'd be interested in ________'s reaction to that....
  • How does what you're saying relate to this comment? [1]
The more I share my Christian convictions with others, the more I see how valuable it is to be able to maneuver through conversations is a thoughtful manner.  It is my hope that these responses will help you do just that.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Taken from a handout given by Search Ministries at the 2012 Mt. Airy Bible Church "Defending Your Faith" Conference.