W. Craig Gilliam, director of The Center for Pastoral Effectiveness for the Louisiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, works with churches that are experiencing conflict. His article discusses the role that miscommunication plays in congregational conflict and offers an intervention process for reducing conflict and enhancing communication. To increase communication and understanding, Gilliam suggests what he calls a “’Listening to Each Other” session’.” This group process has several goals. It seeks to interrupt the conflict, decrease anxiety, “model non-reactive listening,” “coach responsible speaking,” “siphon toxicity out of the system,” and “allow all to have a voice and to hear for themselves.” Gilliam identifies and explains six communication skills and strategies to use in a listening session: “listening authentically,” “questioning,” “summarizing,” “acknowledging,” “reframing,” and “silence.” Each has a role to play, says Gilliam, in transforming “conflict to communication and communion.” Congregations who are struggling with conflict or who often hear themselves or others grumbling about miscommunication will find this article and its nuggets of wisdom helpful and easy to implement. The article is accessible and appropriate for clergy and laity and for a variety of traditions.
Reviewed by Janet Hoover