Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Coffeehouse: What is Good Conversation?

Tea-time! Folks gather around for a good cup of tea. (Or coffee, needless to say.) What do they talk about? Do they all get a bit shy and speak of the weather or their recent errand to town? Does one person do all of the talking and lecture the rest? Does everyone quarrel or have a heated discussion? Needless to say, there are many conversational topics which have their place and set a certain "tone," so to speak. But there is a certain state of mind which I think is essential when we gather for a social tea-time with others.

We need to be charitable! So often we (Or at least I do) come to a public table full of our own thoughts and stories to share and whatever is on our mind. When we hear someone say something that reminds us of our own story we hasten to jump in with the latter. It is also easy to become distracted and to space out while others are speaking as we think of what we need to do back at home or when the baby wakes up... the list goes on! We tend to be selfish without even realizing it. Good conversation, Catherine Doherty says, "is first of all a dialogue, alternating speech between two people or among several." The requirement for this, she says, is "an interest in people". It is necessary that we all focus on listening to others intently, with an open mind. We need to observe what is going on at the table, partaking in a "give-and-take" sort of way.
We need to be sensitive! There are certain types of personalities out there which are more fragile and gentle. These types of personalities tend to be the more shy person when joining in on the conversation and may need a little nudging or gentle invitations of joining in. It is lacking in love towards these others at the table when we are not in tune with their individual personalities.
There is an art and a virtue to listening which is also essential in conversation. We all need to listen to ourselves before speaking, and we also need to listen well to those around us. Don't give a lecture. Feel free to express your own thoughts and perspectives on a matter, but don't shut off when another has something in response to say to it, especially if they disagree. Doherty has a bit more on conversational tips: "Also helpful are spontaneity, simplicity, and joyousness in expressing oneself, without inhibitions of self-consciousness; cultivating an interest in many things, avoiding too much of the pronoun 'I', and the ability to sense whether those present are being drawn into the conversation."
We need to remember that, when in the company of others, we are priviliged to be in the company of Christ Himself. We are given the opportunity to serve Him, listen to Him and to learn more about Him in those we meet and are blessed to get to know.

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one of us :: 7:25 AM :: 0 Comments