Has this ever happened to you?
You invite someone you've been wanting to know better over for dinner. You serve up the lasagne and everyone passes the salad and green beans. Food is all on the plates and conversation begins. Since you are the host you ask the guests a question and they politely answer. Awkward silence. So, being friendly and curious about people, you ask another question at which the guests happily answer. Conversation continues like this throughout the evening and when the guests leave you realize that you found out a lot about them, but they seemed uninterested in you!
I think some people love to talk about themselves but really don't know the art of interesting give-and-take conversation. Sometimes I wonder if cell phones have made us more uninterested because we have so much information coming in all the time. Or perhaps we just aren't that interested in people we don't know. What do you think?
I know I can find myself in a chat with a friend and realize that I have answered several questions and I better wake up and ask a few myself!
So to help you and me remember to be curious and interested in others, here are a few suggestions for us in conversation.
- When you see someone you know coming, try to remember her name.
- Let your mind flash back to what you know is happening in her current life.
- Greet her by name. And if you can't remember it, be honest and ask her! (I did this just yesterday. Saw an old friend at the grocery store. I kept sifting through my brain files but just couldn't come up with her name so I just asked her, with an apology, of course. She was very gracious and admitted to the same thing happening to her at times.)
- Be curious about more than "how she is." Ask questions about the thing that you are genuinely interested in and take time to look her in the eye.
- Try to think beneath what she is telling you. How is she feeling? What is she NOT saying?
- Pray and trust God to guide your conversation. If there isn't enough time, set up a coffee or lunch date for later in the week.
Hopefully she will reciprocate: but if she doesn't, remember that it's OK. She just needs you to be kind and to be a good listener. Sometimes, if necessary, I offer information about myself. It is a way to connect and will help spark more interest and questions from your friend so your time doesn't turn into an interrogation. That's no fun either!
Friendships are precious and it is easy to lose touch when life is full and busy. Perhaps these tips can be a way to stay current with people who you care about but don't see real often.