I will never forget the impact our eighth grade graduation
speaker had on my young and developing life.
The impact was not positive. I
only remember the beginning words of his opening sentence. To his credit, he may have said more, but I
shut down and became emotionally deaf when I heard his first words.
The speaker said, “You kids will not really change in the
future – you will most likely remain the same person you are today.” I’m sure he must have said something more
like, “You will only remain the same if you let yourself” or “Change is possible
if you put your mind into it” or some other encouraging word – at least I hope
he did. All that I remember were his first
words, “You kids will not really change in the future – you will most likely
remain the same person you are today.”
The person I was the day of my eighth grade graduation was not
all that impressive. I felt pudgy and undeveloped. I was leaving boyhood and
entering my early teens. I had a few pimples
and I still combed my hair the way my mom liked. I had yet to discover who I was. The person I was that day wasn’t sure he would
ever get a date with a girl or drive a car or have any kind of success in
life. I was caught up in all the inferior
feelings my developing hormones were producing.
Over the years, I have come to realize how important it is
to begin our conversations with words of hope.
Most of us hear the first thing someone says and if it is positive, it
gives us a healthy context to hear what might follow.
I wonder what would have happened if our graduation speaker would have started
his message with something like this – “You have all the potential in the world
to become anything you desire.” If our
graduation speaker had said those words first maybe that really insecure kid
named Garris Elkins, sitting in his assigned seat in row 8, would have felt better
about the possibilities of his emerging future.
What if I remembered words like these, “You have all the
potential in the world to become anything you desire. You kids will not really
change in the future – you will most likely remain the same person you are
today, unless you see yourself for the awesome person you are now, looking
forward to a bright and hopeful future.”
This preferred way of communication actually has a
name. It is called, “The Communication
Sandwich.” I first heard of this about
25 years ago from a friend of mine, Jared Roth. I don’t know if the concept was
original with Jared, but that was the first time I heard it.
Jared was speaking in our church when he shared how to speak
a challenging word to someone. Jared
said to place the hard meaty thing that needs to be said between two slices of
encouragement. In other words make a
sandwich to house the challenge.
I have spent the last 25 years working in a spiritual
delicatessen building sandwiches.
Whenever I need to bring a challenge to someone, I make sure to bring
twice the amount of encouragement as I do challenge, so that what I have to
share can be digested. I put the tough word between slices of hope and destiny
before I ask the person to take a bite of our conversation. If I don’t have all
these ingredients, I am not yet ready to assemble the sandwich and enter the
The next time you have a challenging word to share with
someone, remember, it is not difficult to throw out a tough word. It does, however, take time and a willing ear
to allow God to give you the slices of encouragement to wrap around what you
need to say. After doing this so many
times, I have come to realize it has been the slices of encouragement towards hope
and destiny that have had the greatest impact on people– even more than the
challenge I thought I needed to bring.
When people are communicated with in this way they leave our
challenging conversations feeling empowered.
If we neglect to build the Conversation Sandwich, people will leave our
conversations feeling like I did that day listening to a graduation speaker
throwing out a tough piece of meat without the slices of hope and destiny that
would have changed everything.