When striking up a conversation with someone about the faith, it can be so easy to begin sharing everything you know about the faith, everything that spoke to you during your conversion, etc. Approaching the faith like this will, most likely, give the person you’re speaking with the idea that you are passionate about your faith. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be passionate about the faith, too. How can we share this passion? Simple: Listen to the person speaking.
It took me a while to understand this, but different “Transcendentals” resonate more with different people. In relit: The Heart of Evangelization, Michael Dopp lists the main Transcendentals as Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. For example, I am a Truth person, meaning I can study theology, read or watch books & videos on apologetics, and I am ecstatic.
Because this is what “spoke” to me, I thought it would speak to others’ minds and hearts.
This wasn’t the case. I would give theology and apologetic books and CDs to people I knew who had left the Church and think, ‘This will get them to come back.’ It didn’t happen, and it confused me. How could someone read Thomas Aquinas and still not think the Catholic Church is the “True Church”?
My “aha moment” for this conundrum came after I went through the evangelization training program relit for the first time. The session on Transcendentals helped me realize that people learn and view or experience the world differently.
I spent seven years as a high school teacher and constantly tried to build my lessons around the three learning styles: Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic (VAK). Have you ever heard someone say “I’m a visual learner” or “I learn by doing something hands-on”? It doesn’t mean that that person can’t learn by another method, but there is a certain style that speaks more clearly to them.
This is the same for our faith.
Not everyone is like me and is a Truth person. The reason my books didn’t “work” with the people I gave them to is because they weren’t Truth people, or at least it wasn’t their primary way of learning. They were Goodness or Beauty people. The Goodness people experience God most in community, authenticity, etc. The Beauty people experience the fullness of the faith in the liturgy, music, nature, etc. So for example, in most cases, if a Goodness person sees a parish with a weak community life, it doesn’t matter what the theology teaches; community guides their thoughts more.
It’s important that we spend the time to listen to others and learn where their hearts and minds are. Once we know our audience, the conversation will not only be more fruitful, but it will show a genuine respect and openness towards the person speaking. May God bless you!