2016 largely represented a failure to listen. Political party elites didn’t realize the populist revolutions that were taking place on both sides of the aisle. People were ending friendships over a failure to listen to people with a different perspective.
Let’s make 2017 a little bit different. Why don’t we dedicate 2017 to the art of the conversation?
I saw an article in the New York Times recently entitled, “How to Have More Engaging Conversations in Everyday Life.” Written by Jonah Engel Bromwich, this piece suggests three main ways to obviously have more engaging conversations: unite around a common interest, be friendly, open and polite and don’t overthink it.
I think that this is generally good advice for handling one half of a conversation. These are pretty straightforward guidelines for how I ought to conduct myself, and they do help us find more interesting conversation. I would add one thing to this list though. I would suggest that in order to truly have good conversations, we need to be willing to listen.
By listen, I don’t simply mean that we stop talking for a period of time to allow someone else to speak. We need to actively pay attention to and attempt to comprehend the words that other people say. I know that this is a basic skill, and I think that we ought to learn next before we enter elementary school. However, when we get so wrapped up in our own world, we fail to listen to people on the outside.
I’m not saying that we have to affirm everything as true. If we listen, there’s bound to be disagreement, and in a conversation, that is perfectly acceptable and even encouraged. The conversation is the perfect place to have a disagreement because each of the two people is not only conducting themselves in the manner that Bromwich suggested above but also listening as I have suggested here.
I don’t know that the end goal of a conversation is always persuasion. Certainly, there are times where I want people to come to my perspective. I wish that every time I spoke to someone about Jesus Christ, they immediately understood how important the Gospel was for them. I would love everyone to be persuaded by my presentation of the Gospel. Experientially, that simply is not true.
In a true conversation though, I have been given an opportunity to speak by another person who is trying to listen and comprehend. Then, I will do the same for that person. We’ll ask questions and interact with the ideas that each other presents.
I know that many people are still unhappy about a variety of things. I know that it is easier to simply shut down and be upset. It is easier to rant and rave than it is to have a conversation. That being said though, I think conversation is valuable, and as we move into the new year, let’s work together to create a culture of conversation. I think that would be a lot better than the ranting and raving we have right now.