I was talking with my husband yesterday morning and we were lamenting over the loss of conversation as a meaningful exchange in our circles. It is an art and a science, both of which seem to be lacking.
Of course, everyone has their own definitions for terms, but we define conversation as:
a two-way interactive exchange of words and body language,
however, when discussing the “art” of conversation we are interested in:
- building relationship
- including topics of shared interest or a combination of multiple topics that would include in some part the interest of both parties
- ideas and opinions being exchanged openly
- active listening to occur by all parties at some point in the conversation
- a desire by all involved to learn, share and know each other better
Do you have many conversations like this? Without these components we find conversation to:
- only touch the surface
- actually create walls when one-sided or not interactive
- and result in distance rather than community.
In our discussions we were wondering what has happened to the art of conversation. Although we hear grumblings and accolades about the good and evil of social media, we did both agree that social media is a vehicle to find others who are interested in and willing to discuss things we are interested in. Then we shift to wondering if the reduction of conversation to 140 character sound bytes and the elimination of body language is part of the downfall of conversation.
In the end, Jesus calls us to love each other. The New Testament has much to say about community. And we know since the beginning of time beginning with Adam that it is not good for man to be alone.
This is where we thought it may be helpful to add a little science into conversation. Maybe we need a process to fall back on. There are some key components that help to develop conversation. We came up with a few.
- Make time to visit with people in person. Being together helps us to be more “present in the moment”. We are more likely to give each other undivided attention. And our body language adds depth and “art” to the conversation.
- Learn to ask open ended questions to start conversations. We must do our part to create a two-way interactive exchange. By asking questions of another person we are being proactive, showing interest, and requesting their participation.
- Practice active listening. Active listening means to focus on what the other person is saying, not what you are getting ready to say. In active listening, your body language is encouraging by nodding your head in understanding, leaning forward, paraphrasing what was just said so that the person knows you have heard them.
- Share your thoughts (and heart) back on the topic of conversation. People want feedback on what they say, but many times we just give a cursory surface response and change the subject. Open up. Share your heart. If you want a real conversation you may have to be the first to open up in order to develop meaningful interactive conversation.
If we are to build community and to love each other as Jesus commands, we need to anti up our hearts and minds to the “art (and science) of conversation”. If you haven’t had a truly meaningful conversation in awhile, join me in proactively seeking one out by doing your part this week. Call someone for coffee or lunch. Show interest in them by asking them questions and start off by really listening to them. Then add a twist of “art” by leaning into the conversation with the color and texture of your heart!
What else do you think adds texture and depth to conversations?