There are all kinds of statistics given how women talk three times as much as men but actually there is nothing substantial to back them up. The reality is that men & women probably talk as much as each other if they are extrovert and if they are introvert, they don’t talk as much!
Talking as an introvert, I am aware that I am economical with my words! But my greatest desire is for meaningful conversation – I want to talk about things that matter – I want to understand new things about myself, those around me and the world we live in – I want to go deeper with people and find out what they believe and what makes them tick – I want to see change, and talk about strategy, and think through why things and people don’t change, and…. lots more.
If you analyse your last week’s worth of conversations, how significant have they been? Perhaps it depends on how busy you have been and how tired you are or whether you have had the ability to focus and make the most of conversations you have had. If we aren’t careful the conversation even with those we live with becomes a mundane, ‘what did you have for lunch’, ‘how was the traffic’, ‘pass the salt,’ kind of talk.
What do you find yourself talking about? Sports, entertainment, the weather (especially if you live in the UK), complaining about your boss and your work environment, and then analysing the sermon over Sunday dinner. Jesus, who knew this tendency among his disciples would throw in a comment or question to the community to raise the level of conversation. For instance – ‘If you took me out in your boat, I could fill your nets.’ ‘Who do people say I am? Who do you say I am?’ ‘You feed them’ (referring to the 5000 hungry people on the hill.) ‘What were you arguing about on the way here?’ All through the gospel, Jesus brings challenging questions, tells parables that cut to the heart and is continually using conversation to bring understanding and value changes.
In the LDC training, we have established peer groups or triplets once a week as part of the schedule for 90 minutes. These groups are made up of 3 or 4 men or women, with the goal of having ‘conversations on purpose.’ One member of the group will bring a question or topic to talk about and each person shares their personal experience or thoughts about it. It can be as general as ‘What are the pressures you are facing at the moment?’ to ‘How are you going deeper in your relationship with God and what spiritual disciplines are you engaging in to see that happen?’
As we share openly in these groups, we find out that we are not the only ones with a particular problem or facing challenging situations, and we learn from one another and receive input and prayer from each other. These conversations involve thankfulness, confession, repentance, encouragement, affirmation and prayer. I have always come away from my staff peer group with a sense of greater connection, inspiration and feeling cared for, with my spirit having been uplifted.
So why don’t we do this more?
- The first and perhaps most important reason is that it takes someone to step out and take initiative to start a conversation that goes just that little bit deeper.
- It takes some prior thought. We do lots of preparation if we are preaching, teaching or giving a presentation but when it comes to intimate relationships we tend to go with a spontaneous approach. And many people find spontaneous difficult.
- It helps to have a small group that is committed to sharing more deeply together like this, or simply one other person, a spiritual companion that you share with on a deeper level. Once there is an agreement to go in this direction the door is open for either person to ask a question or share a situation or make a comment for response. In my experience men especially need this kind of committed group for the deeper agendas to be brought up.
- People don’t generally like to be vulnerable. They like to share from a position of strength, so you will need to create a climate for this kind of sharing.
- Confessing sin, failure, doubt, fear, etc are also not the norm. The bible encourages us: ‘Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.,’ says James in chapter 5:16. John Wesley made confession a part of his weekly class meetings as a necessary discipline for spiritual growth.
Whenever you get together, spend some time thinking about what would be helpful to talk about. What are you or the other person or people going through? What have you been thinking and meditating about? What’s the focus of your journal entries? What book has challenged you in your thinking and beliefs?
One peer group I was a part of, had topics to discuss like: What are you doing that is helping your marriage to grow deeper? What are the challenges you face in your finances? What legacy do you want to leave – what are you doing to finish well? Who are the key mentors, spiritual companions in your life and what do you do together? How are you dealing with your greatest weaknesses in life?
Other people find it more comfortable to simply get together without a clear agenda and talk about life right now. Out of the conversation the things that matter arise and a focus emerges that is relevant, pertinent and gets down to the nitty gritty of life’s challenges. I have this kind of relationship with a friend of mine and each time we are together, one of us has something we are needing to process out loud. I look forward to those times.
If you have a close friend or are married, then you have the built-in potential of a spiritual companion to have deep conversations with about everything! Everyday life happens that gives us the opportunity of learning from one another and supporting each other. So, let’s make it a goal of having more conversations on purpose.
Even when you have decided to go deeper in your conversations attitudes arise that can hinder honest and authentic sharing. Things like:
- Strength of opinion with fixed ideas and not having a teachable spirit;
- Lack of listening skills and easily distracted from giving attention;
- Inability to focus on one topic for more than a few moments;
- Not having clear opinions about anything that hinders the flow of conversation;
- Vulnerability only being one sided with a lack of mutual sharing taking place;
- Disagreeing with and putting down others comments rather than adding to them;
- Regularly focusing the conversation around themselves without the same care for others;
So, we need to approach these conversations with an open spirit and a willingness to let down our guards and our defensiveness and enter into a whole new world of sharing our hearts and lives.
My prayer is that you will be able to see opportunities of making ‘conversations on purpose’ a part of your life right now.
Until next month,
P.S. Here’s are some more good question openers:
- What is your greatest desire right now?
- What change would you like to make in your life?
- What are going to miss in the transition you making?
- What is your greatest passion and how are you living it out?
- How do you balance ministry, family and personal life?
- What negative life pattern would you like to interrupt?
- What areas of your life have you fully surrendered to God and what areas are still in your control?
- What would you say are good habits you want to pass on and bad habits that you would like to quit?
- What is your greatest challenge in living out your roles? What needs to change?
- What areas of pain have you worked through and what wounds are still open?