Investing in the hearts of other people can be so much more enlightening (and rewarding) if you simply let them talk. Some people learn by listening, but most learn by talking. Again – people learn more by talking than listening. So, when you are in a conversation with your child, what is a simple way that you can engage them and get them talking? Use the communication tool of “slant.”

Before I explain where I learned about this “slant” tool, let me begin with a very simple illustration:

While on a walk with his father, a little boy asks his dad, “What is sex?” The dad begins to sweat and panic. He thinks to himself, “Uh-oh, it’s the sex talk. Where’s his mother?” But, the father fights past the panic, musters up the courage and then, fully explains the act of sex. Then, after several minutes, he looks at his son and says, “Well, did that answer your question?” With a confused and bewildered look, the boy says, “I’m not sure what you were talking about, but all I want to know is whether I am an M or an F.” Ugh.

You can practice “telling things at slant” by answering questions with questions. When you answer a question with a question, be sure to ask an open-ended question that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no.” More than that, ask inquiring questions. The father could have simply said to the little boy, “Son, I am so glad you asked this great question about sex. What’s on your mind?”

By “slanting” the conversation, the mentor can engage the child, and begin to understand what has been weighing on their child’s heart. And as you ask more and more questions, you build critical thinking skills, logical skills, and creative problem-solving skills.

Two of the best “tell it at slant” teachers to ever walk this earth were Jesus and Socrates. Jesus often answered questions with questions. He was using the tool of “tell it at slant” to get the person thinking, chatting, pondering and exploring. Socrates was also a master of this style – so much so that it is sometimes called the “Socratic Method.”

I did not come up with this “tell it at slant” tool on my own. It was taught to me by an older father who was helping me to become a better father. My older friend introduced me to a little book called Tell it at Slant, authored by Eugene Peterson. This book illustrates how Jesus used this method of communication to get his listeners to talk, explore and learn. Jesus loved people so much that He often gave them slow drips of truth so that they were gradually dazzled by truth.

I’ll leave you with this: Emily Dickenson’s poem, aptly titled, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant —”

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —