Questions generate answers, but statements produce resistance. Questions are imperative when leading a complainer through listening.
Because he sees issues as black and white (right or wrong), the complainer fights to be right and is notorious for making absolute statements that leverage the words always and never. For example, “You never call me!” When we listen wisely, we rephrase an absolute statement in the form of a question, “Do you really mean never?” This gently implies the exaggeration just made by the complainer, causing him to wrestle with his perspective and readjust his statement. Often, he will discover that his desire to be objective has led him to be quite subjective.
Paul likened this wise kind of response to salt, saying that we should be wise in the way we act towards outsiders so that we may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:5-6). Solomon equated this earnest counsel with the joy that perfume and incense bring to the heart: “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel” (Proverbs 27:9).
Jesus rephrased the Pharisee’s absolute statement, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking” (Luke 5:33) in the form of a question, “Can you make the guest of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?” (Luke 5:34). Jesus was saying that it was the right time to celebrate because God was among them.
Follow comfort and encouragement with reflecting the complainer’s heart to be right by rephrasing an absolute statement in the form of a question. Be alert for words like always and never. Ask, “Do you really mean always? Do you really mean never?” It won’t be you leading the complainer through listening; rather, it will be Christ in you.