After 31 years of pastoral ministry I still have a lot to learn, but compared to what I knew 31 years ago I am a genius. I thought I had it together 31 years ago, but it didn’t take long to realize I don’t know much about ministry. (I think I began to realize this just after I spoke the first time as a pastor) One advantage I had when I started was that my Dad was a pastor, a good one. With all of my growing up years I had been learning about ministry even though I did not realize I was learning. There were just some things that I knew I should do and some things I knew I should not do when I started as a pastor. But even with that training, I had a lot to learn.
I realize that some things can’t be learned very well until you face them yourself, but there are some things I wish I had known when I was starting out. In my previous post I asked for help in compiling some information about what you wish you had known, or what you would like to know if you are just starting, or what you wish your pastor knew. I am going to periodically post some of these items.
I wish I knew that it is not always what you say that matters most, it is what people hear. You might be thinking that these two are the same. (My guess is that if you are thinking this, then you don’t speak in front of others very often) I assumed that when I started. Through many painful lessons I now know that what people hear matters as much, or more, than what I say.
I have learned that there are times, many, many, many times that people will hear something differently than I thought I said it. There are many reasons this phenomenon. One is that I did not really say what I thought I said. That is why it is important to study and plan your messages, speeches, or other communications. Another reason is that I used a phrase, or term, that I can be taken in more than one way. If the listener had a different meaning for a phrase or term than I intended, then we have a real disconnect. This guarantees that they will hear something different than I said. Another reason could be the background, or prejudices that the hearer came in with. Their background, or prejudices, could predispose them to hear things a certain way. If that way is different than mine, or my intention, then we have a problem. Sometimes the issue is that the hearer just doesn’t like what you are saying and therefore they hear something else in order to avoid dealing with the topic you are addressing.
There are probably other reasons for people hearing something different than was said, but I think you get the point. If I had known that sometimes people hear something different than what I say, I could have saved myself some major headaches and conflict early in my ministry. Even though I am well aware of this fact now, it still happens times. When it happens now, I am better prepared to work through the misunderstanding. When I was first starting out as a pastor my first reaction was to simply inform the person that they were wrong. (Now you understand me saying that I had a few conflicts over this subject) Those who speak and lead need to be vigilante in seeking to have those around us hear what we intend for them to hear.
What can you do to raise the percentage of people hearing what you really mean to say?
Here’s hoping that you are communicating in such a way that the people in your world hear what you say.