Dealing With Tricky Questions

Author: Hannah Hayward

Picture: Flickr

Dealing With Tricky Questions

Hannah Hayward shares how a video resource helped her become confident in explaining her faith and Church teaching.

Tongue-tied, terrified and totally unqualified: this is how I felt 12 months ago when posed with hot topic conversations with non-Catholics, such as Gay marriage, atheism, transgenderism, anti-Catholicism and the Eucharist. 

The Church and her teaching is beautiful, but I did not always find them easy to explain or defend. I found myself leaving conversations with non-believers feeling frustrated and thoroughly deflated.

I felt like a poor witness and ill-equipped to deal with the greatest challenges thrown at the Church by my contemporaries.   

A Question-Led Approach

So what changed?  Well, just over a year ago, I was introduced to a resource called ‘ClaritasU’.  It is a video resource that gives you concrete, compassionate, clear skills for explaining the most difficult of Catholic teachings, in a way that is gentle, comprehensible and constructive. 

It is not primarily a teaching tool, and presumes a prior assent to Catholic teaching, but if you find yourself struggling, it helps you get clear yourself, and with others, about why the Church believes what it does-it’s a great tool.

Just the simple tools of great questions to ask, great facts to learn, and great perspectives to consider have totally transformed my conversations in the last year.  The biggest change has been that my conversations are now more ‘question-led’.  I will try not to give a statement or an answer, if a question will suffice. 

For example, questions like ‘What do you mean by that?’ and ‘How did you come to that conclusion?’ can completely change the dynamic of a conversation.  They show the person you are interested in their views and that you respect them enough to ask them what they think first. 

Fruitful Conversations and the Holy Spirit

They also challenge the other person to give a clear account of their own position, and can reveal to you what are – very often – the real questions behind the questions.  This enables you to have a far more fruitful conversation.

I don’t have a perfect track record, and I still walk away from conversations feeling I could have done more.  All the tools in the world can never override the fact that you are speaking to a unique human person, whose position and reaction you cannot predict.

We still definitely need the Holy Spirit, who ultimately gives us the right words to say (Matthew 10:19), and this resource may not convince you if you are not already convinced.  However, it will empower you to be able to cope in difficult conversations.

  • Hannah Hayward is Coordinating Lay Chaplain at Leeds Trinity university and Vice-Chair of Network, the youth expression of the National Service Committee.

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