1. Listen carefully to the other person even if you think you know what he is saying.
- You may be wrong about what he will say.
- Listening communicates personal concern for the person.
2. Clarify the issues.
- People often have a very unclear idea of what they are objecting to, or what they actually believe.
- It is best to deal with one topic at a time.
3. Use illustrations wherever possible.
- Abstract concepts must usually be explained by illustration or analogy. Antitheses are also helpful.
4. Highly emotional conversations are usually unproductive
- These may include yelling, expressing disgust, interrupting, name-calling, ganging up, etc. These behaviors are always harmful to real communication and persuasion.
- If another person is hostile, there is no need to take it personally. (see Jn. 15:20,21)
5. Avoid getting sidetracked.
- Most questions should be treated as sincere, worthwhile issues. Some, however, might be attempts to change the topic. We should generally assume the sincerity and genuine curiosity of the questioner, unless she/he is obviously antagonistic.
- It is generally good to stay focused on one issue at a time for clarity.
6. Don't lie or "fake it."
- If you don't know the answer, say so. Tell them you'll get the answer and then get back on the subject. Usually this provides an opportunity to engage in a new conversation at another date.
7. It is not always necessary to be on the defensive. You are also in a position to ask questions.
- It is not enough for someone to poke holes in Christianity - what alternative do they espouse? If they have none, this may need to be pointed out.
- If they do espouse an alternative, it may be proper to show them the problems with their system.
8. Resist the desire to "win."
- The goal is to win the person - not the argument.
- If there is a feeling that the other person doesn't want to talk about the matter any further, don't force it. If they begin to back off, you should back off also and (if appropriate) change the subject to personal testimony or some other non-threatening material.
9. Recognize a closed mind. (Mt. 7:6; Prov. 26:4,5)
- If you strongly suspect the person is completely closed, ask him, "If I could prove to you that Christianity is true, would you receive Christ?" If he says "no", point out his intellectual dishonesty and the fruitlessness of further discussion until his attitude changes.
- Exception: when there are other people listening, who might be genuinely open, then you may need to continue the conversation for their benefit.