the art of conversation

Post from: KrisAnne

I heard someone say once that Christian faith is the freedom to be self-forgetful. Self-forgetful. That is not something that comes naturally to me. The natural thing is to watch out for myself, to seek the things that meet my needs and make me happy. But Christian faith sets me free from me-centered living. Just like Jesus, I can now put the needs of others first and my needs last. Even in conversation.

….which leads me to the title of this post. Have you ever noticed that there is an art to good conversation. Some people are skilled in this art and others are not. There are conversation partners who consistently steer the conversation back to themselves, who interrupt, who miss opportunities to ask follow-up questions, and who use insider lingo that the other isn’t familiar with. This is not self-forgetful. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone like this? It’s both awkward and frustrating. And one tries to avoid future conversations with partners such as these.

I, for one, want to learn the art of being a good conversation partner. I want to listen to my partner with my ears, mind and heart. I want to be more interested in hearing them than whatever I am going to say next.  I want to allow them to completely finish their thought. I want to ask good questions that invite the other person to say more about their passions or their pain. I want to learn to speak their language– the language of music theory or computer technology or veterinary medicine or football or gardening– at least a bit of that language, anyway. I want to be self-forgetful in conversation.

Why, you may ask? Because I believe this is missional practice. Learning to have deep, meaningful conversation with someone is one way to show that I honor them and value them. They are not my project, my potential convert– they are not MY anything. They are a sacred human being who God loves. They have a story worth hearing.  Therefore, conversation is an art worth learning. I’m going to need more practice, and lots of grace from my partners while I learn.

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Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford on conversation (from Right Here Right Now: everyday mission for everyday people): Christians are not necessarily good at conversation. We tend toward functionality in our relationships [what will get done here], we lack cultural breadth [because we are submerged in Christian this and Christian that], and we are too quick to want to get to the Bible and spirituality… [we should be] culturally tuned to the issues of the day… stop being overly ‘spiritual,’ using religious language to talk about God– it mostly alienates people. Rather, bring a God interpretation to ordinary life without forcing conversations to the four spiritual laws. Conversation invites friendship, provokes intrigue, promotes mutual quest, weaves story with opinion, extends a listening ear, and offers something of the self in the equation. At best it is done around tables or in places of social engagement.” (p. 51)

I am pondering these elements:

1. invites friendship

2. provokes intrigue (curiosity & questions)

3. promotes mutual quest (what are we both looking for here?)

4. weaves story with opinion

5. extends a listening ear

6. offers something of the self

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~ by missionindtown on June 22, 2011.

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