Take a moment to stop and think of someone in your life that is truly a delight to talk with. Mind you, I didn’t say “listen to” or “talk to”, I said “talk with.” This someone might not necessarily be your spouse or even your best friend. He or she might be a person at church, or work that you look forward to. Coming up with someone is easy, but have you thought about how pleasant or unpleasant it might be to talk to you?
Proverbs 16:23 The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.
There are a lot of things about a person that makes us want to be around them or avoid them, but one of the main ones is how they talk and what they talk about. How well can you answer these questions?
1. What is your favorite topic of conversation?
This is usually the area that needs to be tweaked the most, mainly because everyone’s favorite topic of conversation is himself. Our sin nature automatically makes every one of us self-absorbed. It rears its ugly head most often when we talk. We want to talk about what we do, think, how we feel.
Do the comments from the person you’re talking to simply remind you of something else you can say about what’s happening in your life? Do you impatiently wait for the other person to quit talking so you can steer the path back to yourself? Worse yet, do you interrupt? Proverbs 17:27-28 He that hath knowledge spareth his words; and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise; and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
Want a challenge? The next time you’re at church or work, pick someone you don’t normally interact with and approach them with the intention of talking solely about them. Try your best not to refer to yourself in the conversation. I won’t lie. It’s not easy, but it’s so rewarding! Phillipians 2:3-5 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.
2. Do you actively listen?
Have you ever attentively listened to a woman talk for a few minutes, but when it’s time for you to add your two cents, suddenly she’s concerned with her kids or something else distracting? This is a woman that has not learned to be an active listener. Active listening involves being able to comment or ask questions about what the person has just said. It means looking at them while they talk, nodding, saying “I see,” “how interesting,” and anything else that shows you’re listening. If you’re not practicing this, it tells other people that only what you say is important enough to listen to.
3. Can you play tennis with your words?
A healthy conversation includes both/all parties equally. Usually when there’s a problem with the “game,” the tennis ball is hogged by someone monopolizing the conversation. It takes skill to listen and at the same time be thinking of a comment and question to maintain a healthy interchange. Just like typing, knitting, or golf, for most it takes lots of practice to become a selfless, fluid, and confident conversationalist.
A tip to keep the tennis match going is to end every comment with a specific question—one they can’t answer with a simple “yes” or “no”. Put the ball back in their court. Proverbs 20:15 There is gold, and a multitude of rubies; but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
Think of how wonderful it feels to be asked, “Did you make it to that appointment on time?” or “You look a bit discouraged today. Is there something you’d like to talk about?”t
Asking questions shows that you care, that you’ve thought of them throughout the week, that you were listening the last time you talked.
Work on these three areas, and you’ll have improved your ability to carry a well-balanced conversation. Better yet, you’ll be more like Christ. Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
—April W Gardner is a multi-published author
and the senior editor of the literary site, Clash of the Titles.
*The Conversation by artist Arnold Lakhovsky —This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
*Tennis pix–Attribution: Vladsinger at en.wikipedia