conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

How to Talk About Stuff That Matters

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2 Places to Begin

We’re at a restaurant, my friend and I. We have not seen each other for a while and I am eager to hear what is going on—really going on. Not just work. Not just hobbies or movies or other distractions. But what is the stuff touching my friend’s soul?

With some friends, a movie watched or a book read or a work assignment is the gateway to a conversation that opens up the irritations and joys, the tough marriage or relational issues we’re going through and the spiritual questions and self-doubts we’re currently entertaining. Maybe some ancient text seems to have pointed the way forward or that inveterate letter writer has provoked a response in us that looked like this set of actions last week. Those are conversations to cherish. They can fill a person up for long time—not with information but with connection and ideas and forward-motion.

With other friends, our work is the only topic and we don’t venture far from that. Rather than opening up, the conversation seems to circle the wagons and becomes something less. Probing is not part of this communication event. I leave somewhat disappointed.

Why is that? How can conversation be so different? I’ve often puzzled through this. Both conversations can happen with friends old and new. Maybe introvert/extrovert/personality type has something to do with it. Maybe trust has not built or has been destroyed. Or maybe we don’t have the language to adequately express what is going on or maybe the last time we were honest with someone they shot us down.

Conversation has so many variables that direct cause and effect is impossible to pin down. And there are no formulas or road maps. But two things are certain:

  1. Engaging in direct conversation is profitable. If not today, then tomorrow. Or next Tuesday. Or in a month/year. Engaging in conversation is a gift we give to each other, and sometimes it takes time to explore the topic and trust that has risen between us. Our conversation says we value someone.
  2. Our own willingness to share the deep stuff in us has a direct effect on opening the talk and life of our conversation partner. This is scary: what if someone doesn’t respond? What if they put me down? Trust and boldness help answer that question.

With whom will you talk about what matters today?


Image credit: fer1972 via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

October 30, 2012 at 9:27 am

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