November 16, 2018
I met two girls in LING 301 during my first semester of college, and after a couple of class periods the three of us decided to grab coffee one afternoon. We set a date; I was nervous. Coffee at Starbucks at 2:30… safe enough, right? I got there early, picked a perfect table, and let the butterflies in my stomach practice their acrobatic routines while I pretended to read a book. Totally nonchalant, and totally hiding my nerves.
Will the conversation flow?
What do I do if there’s silence?
How funny should I try to be?
What if we run out of topics?
Surely meeting new friends for coffee shouldn’t be this terrifying, yet there I sat, wondering if my classmates would still like me after this hangout and count me as their friend. Am I the only one who wonders how a conversation will go?
I think we’d all agree that the best conversations are when both participants are equally involved in asking questions and sharing thoughts. No one likes to be interrogated, and no one wants to be the one creating all the questions either. Whether it’s a new friend, a first date, or a coworker, we all want to be liked and understood, so here’s two ways to conquer your next conversation!
1. Invite & Inspire.
I’ve done a little research on how to have good conversations (nerdy, I know, but hey- I gotta keep you guys informed somehow), and my favorite article from David Wendler breaks down good conversations into two parts: inviting & inspiring. Everything we say should either invite the other person to speak or inspire him or her to want to share. The best conversations are a mix of quality questions and thoughtful responses that encourage further dialogue. If you focus your participation in a conversation around these two ideas, you’ll find it easy to keep the talking going!
2. Good Questions Matter.
My buddy Voltaire puts it best when he says to “judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” To me, the secret to a good conversation lies in the questions you choose to ask. Whenever I meet with girls from my Life Group, I always think of 2-3 questions to ask ahead of time. I try to remember what they last told me about their jobs, their classes, and their friends. I plan to follow up on prayer requests and big exams, and I make sure to intentionally inquire about their relationship with God. The best questions are specific, open-ended, and genuine. After all, who wants to share when no one is there to listen? If you ask a question, make sure you’re ready to listen to the response as well.
How do you approach conversations? Does talking to people make you nervous, or do you thrive in new discussions? Either way, I think we can always improve our intentionality in our conversations. Let’s use our words to show that we care today!
((First pic is from Fall 2016; second pic is from Fall 2018!))