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How to be a Hospitable Communicator By Terry A. Smith

3 Ways to Be a Hospitable Communicator

I truly believe that, as hospitable leaders, we should view ourselves as both guests and hosts.

That might seem a little confusing, so let me explain.

I often take this approach when I’m speaking. As a speaker, I’m a host because I’m welcoming people into this space of communication – whether it’s to a live audience or digitally. But I’m also a guest because the audience is only giving me so much time to prove what I’m saying is worth hearing and putting into action.

So how do we approach speaking and leading from those two separate mindsets? Further, how do we create a hospitable, communicative climate in which we’re an effective guest and host?

Let’s take a look at Three Ways to Be a Hospitable Communicator

Common Ground

 In my book, The Hospitable Leader, I phrase this as “accentuating areas of common grace.”

We’re all God’s creations, made in his image. All of us want to love and be loved. Even though we may be separated by language, culture, region – whatever it may be – we can all recognize the beauty of a sunset. We all have the basic God-given awareness of right and wrong.

So that’s what hospitable communication starts with – this desire to find things in common.

Empathetic Listening

Genuine listening involves seeking to understand someone else – their thoughts, feelings and experiences. We may ultimately disagree with them, but we still want to see the world from their point of view.

To connect with our audience, whether it’s from the stage as a speaker or from a position of leadership on a team, we must first be a good audience to them.

In his autobiography The Pastor, Eugene Peterson tells the story of a preacher who’s asked what the most important thing is to preaching on Sunday. His response,

“For two hours every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, I walk through the neighborhood and make home visits. There is no way that I can preach the Gospel to the people if I don’t know how they are living or what they are thinking and talking about.”

As leaders, we must work diligently to listen to our audience and team members. That way, we’ll know what matters to them. And we’ll know what to say and how to say it effectively.

 “Genuine listening involves seeking to understand someone else – their thoughts, feelings and experiences. We may ultimately disagree with them, but we still want to see the world from their point of view. “

We Speak

And here’s the key: We don’t speak what people want to hear. We speak what they need to hear.

However, what we say will have little effect if we haven’t first accentuated what we have in common and listened to understand. If we’ve done both of those things, then we’ve created a space in which it’s safe to speak truth.

So we should be well aware of our timing, always looking for the right moment to speak honestly. Truth uttered prematurely is a serious liability.

The Apostle Paul puts it this way:

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

When we follow these guidelines, we’ll begin creating a hospitable climate in which communication is both lovingly given and received. We’ll have created a space in which we’re both welcomed as a guest and embraced as a host.

Remember there are three things you can do:

  • Accentuate grace.
  • Listen empathetically.
  • Speak truth.

These guidelines are key to hospitable communication, as they allow us to truly influence those we lead.


Terry A. Smith has served as Lead Pastor of The Life Christian Church for twenty-seven years.  TLCC -is  a non-denominational faith community with campuses in West Orange and Paramus, New Jersey. He is the author of  Live Ten: Jump-Start the Best Version of Your Life (Thomas Nelson) and The Hospitable Leader: Create Environments Where People and Dreams Flourish (Bethany House).

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