I remember being on a flight once… the woman who sat next to me never said a single word to me. No hello, no goodbye, no conversation as we flew through the air in a metal tube at 550 miles per hour. That was fine. But what was disconcerting is that as she retrieved her suitcase from the overhead bin, she dropped an evangelistic tract into my lap, then walked down the runway and off the plane. I suppose I came across as a young man in desperate need of salvation? A humbling moment for sure.
At the same time, my heart ached for her. I appreciated her earnest desire to see others encounter the good news. But I couldn’t help but question her method. Why not say hello? Ask a few questions? Did I appear intimidating? Was there a language barrier? I’m not sure I’ll ever know.
This story came to mind as I read “10 Tips for Fascinating Table Talk at Your Next Dinner Party” in the New York Times this morning.
If we’re going to have good conversations about Jesus and the gospel, it is likely that we first need to learn how to have good conversations in general.
Here’s some tips from the article:
- Appreciate small talk. “Small talk gives guests a chance to get to know one another, and to take one another’s measure, before the conversation turns to weightier matters.”
- “Less Talk, More Listening”
- “Embrace Complicated Topics”
- “Keep Arguments Low-Key…It’s amazing how much more relaxed a political argument becomes when you understand that you don’t have to — and in fact won’t — “win.””
- Ask “What?” and “Why?”: “To ensure that a guest’s story becomes truly interesting, just ask two questions over and over: what and why. What exactly happened? What did that feel like? Seek emotional specifics. And then: Why? Why is this anecdote important? This is where the guest’s most thoughtful connection to a story lies.”
- “Don’t Assume. Asking questions can get a guest to reveal something fascinating about herself. But a quick way to prevent that is to give her possible answers. “Why did you quit law school — was it too boring?” Leave out the guess. A short question is more likely to provoke details.”
What do you think? Are these good tips?
Let’s help each other out: Please share your absolute best advice about having good conversations!