NO CROSS-TALK: When someone is sharing, don’t give advice or interrupt.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (James 1:19)
One of the greatest challenges most of us face when someone shares about their soul is that we often want to make it better for them. When someone shares a struggle we can tend to want to outline a solution. When someone shares a success we can sometimes want to relate it to our own experience. These are good and loving desires. The problem is, our solution or advice may or may not always be best for that person. What worked for us may not apply to them. It takes humility to own that truth. We may not be able to change what is happening in someone’s life, and sometimes that creates an unsettling feeling in us. We have to live in that tension and learn to listen deeply and bring those concerns to God in prayer. That sounds simple, but trust me when I say after four years of practicing this: you will find yourself failing at this point at times. This is why we lay down this commitment with a strong phrase like “No cross-talk.”
What is cross-talk? It is simply interrupting someone’s sharing to share about our own experience. It is asking a poorly timed question that breaks the flow of somebody sharing. It is an attempt to give advice or make things better for somebody. It is also bringing up what someone else shared previously and relating it to your own experience. All of these things can come from a place of good intentions. However, often the recipient of cross-talk can feel stifled by it. If I get interrupted, I may stop sharing completely. If I feel like you are not listening, I may shorten and limit what I say. If you relate my experience to yours, then my mind is off wondering how much you do or don’t understand me, and how much my experience does and does not compare with yours. All of this can create an atmosphere that challenges open sharing.
So, does this mean that you will never ask a clarifying question? Certainly not. Does this mean you should not ever encourage someone? No. However, we should wait for cues from that person. For example, “Do you guys have any thoughts on what a solution might be?” would be an invitation. And even with a direct invitation for advice, consider responding with soft recommendations like, “Have you considered . . .” or “You could possibly . . .”
The same holds true for holding someone accountable. A bandmate might say, “I would really appreciate it if you guys would check in with me next week about _____.” That’s an invitation. However, some cautions about accountability are warranted before it becomes a practice of your band. Often when we ask a person to hold us accountable, it can come from a good place. However, in so doing we are placing a responsibility on someone else. If they forget to ask, I can feel like I am off the hook. Consider, instead, that this process is inviting you to be responsible for you, and the others are there for support.
Lastly, a word of wisdom about challenging or correcting others. There is no question that I have received positive challenges from those in my band. Their vulnerability challenges me, their integrity challenges me, and on occasion they have spoken words of caution. However, it takes serious time and trust in a relationship to enter into what might be considered correction. We may feel that it is our obligation to rebuke or correct someone when they sin or fail, but it takes great wisdom, humility, and spiritual depth to do this redemptively. Correction brings with it a great risk of personal and relational damage, and because of that, we advise against correction as a core practice for bands during meeting times. Certainly there are times where it is appropriate, but if someone confesses sin—it is redundant to further emphasize the point with rebuke. The power of a discipleship band lies in the ability to help pick people back up when they fail. We all fail. The strength is in facing it, getting back up, and growing from it.
So, no cross-talk. Listen well and take those things to prayer.
Jesus, help me to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Help me be for those in my band a person that does not try to have the solutions or answers. Jesus, give me your humble Spirit who never forces your way into our lives, but waits patiently for us to respond willingly to your grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Do you tend to be a person who wants to fix things when there is a problem, or do you do well sitting in that tension?
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