Day: April 21, 2009


We went to the Blue Mountains this weekend for a delighful engagement party. It’s the journey that I found interesting though. We didn’t talk much, but it felt profoundly reinvigorating to share quiet time together. I want to reflect on shared silence…

One of the first (and possibly best) compliments I ever gave to Chris was how easy it was to share silence together. I think that the better you know someone and the more confident you are in their presence, the easier it is to share silence. With an acquaintance I find silence feels awkward and so I try to fill the space with conversation. I don’t think I’m the only one — I’ve just read this advice from a Community Services Training Course I’ve been working through on how attentive silence is a strategy for effective communication when dealing with clients:

We are generally uncomfortable with silence. Commonly, after a few moments’ pause in a conversation, many of us start asking questions, make comments or even give advice. This can create a problem for the speaker who may use the silence to think about something in more detail. During periods of silence the listener also has an opportunity to focus on the speaker’s non-verbal communication and to think about what they are communicating.

These two events have made me reflect — I don’t think I spend enough time with God in silence.

I assume you have a reason for that

I’ve been pondering how to give feedback, especially when I disagree with the point or approach.

This has cropped up because I’m involved in a preaching group — workshopping a different person’s sermon each week — as well our fourth year Issues in Theology class — which consists almost entirely in listening and responding to presentations by class members often dealing with topics of particular pastoral interest (e.g., sin in the life of a believer, the problem of evil, the environment).

My tendency when confronted with disagreement is to say nothing for as long as I can. With the result that minor annoyances quickly become major frustrations — even more so because no-one else picks them up! Needless to say, this Dam It Up Until I Can’t Hold It Back approach is hardly constructive. Nor has it won the love and admiration of my peers.

I really want to improve at this. So I plan to follow the advice of a very wise colleague: assume the person I’m giving feedback to has a reason for what they said.

This puts flesh on the bones of the principle, ‘Don’t get frustrated, get fascinated’. Better, it allows for a thoroughly Christian approach to giving feedback. It lets you explicitly and directly challenge the point you disagree with — and be completely honest about disagreeing. Yet it keeps you humble enough to be taught. Rather than initiating a cycle of attack and counter-attack, it functions as an invitation to enter a conversation.

Can you imagine how differently things might unfold if I gave feedback like this?

I was interested to see that you said this/took this approach, where others may have made another point or approached it a different way; I’d love to hear about why you headed down the path you took…

Fremantle, WA (April 2009)

Fremantle, WA (April 2009)