Every day I exchange text messages on various platforms; about a third of my friends on Facebook may “like” a post I put up, and I would “like” their postings. Every day there will be communications for various purposes – I could be teaching in class, then a quick exchange of information with my colleague (“So…I will put that form in your box to sign”) or making appointments (“Let’s meet at the admin conference room at 2 p.m.”). And of course every day there will be emails.
But it is not every day that I have a conversation.
Conversations are not just functional, but are opportunities and times when I attempt to connect with others more intentionally, holistically and meaningfully. Conversations are not just giving information or making appointments. Those are necessary social interactions and should always be graciously done.
But good conversations are when we just talk, listen, probe, and share what’s bothering us. Conversations require us to listen with our hearts to the other and to hear the subtext, hence they require our full attention. Conversations take time and space and are face-to-face.
Conversations are when two or more people explore new territory, exchanging thoughts, pulling together what has been read and experienced, to see what new ideas emerge. A good conversation, like a good book, leaves me thinking, reflecting and questioning about life, God, and whatever we talked about.
Such conversations take time; but usually we are so stretched during the day we don’t have that time. Too often I try to just keep up with people by texting them during the 30-minute commute home. But that’s not a good conversation.
I am sure Jesus and his disciples had many long conversations as they lived together over three years. He also had some significant conversations recorded in the gospels – with Nicodemus (John 3) and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). In his letter to Philemon, Paul could have ordered him to act (v.8), but instead he sought to persuade and cajole (v.14).
These are examples of conversations in that they show active listening and respect for the other. Such conversations elicit a response, an action or change of attitude.
Good conversations then, often with good friends, leave me with my interest piqued, ignorance informed, previous thoughts provoked and feelings comforted; with Christians, such conversations often end in prayer because we want to lift up all that we’ve said to the sovereign Lord and by whose Spirit we can change and be moulded to being more Christ-like. And it’s those people with whom I want to have further conversations because I am changed for the better by our conversation.
To have good conversations we need to be good conversationalists. We need skills like being present and not being distracted; hence mobile phones need to be put aside. Being present then allows us to listen attentively to the other and so be able to connect beyond the superficial level. Good conversations require us to give the other time, space and effort to meander around exploring various topics of concern.
Building on all that then, conversations are thus the basis of good friendships, and our conversation partners are people with whom we speak about anything and everything, keep in touch with and pray with.
Good conversations broaden our perspectives and help us grow. So let us take the time and make the effort to have some good conversations.
To have good conversations we need to be good conversationalists. We need skills like being present and not being easily distracted; hence mobile phones need to be put aside.
Kwa Kiem Kiok is a local preacher at Trinity Methodist Church, and teaches missions-related subjects at East Asia School of Theology. She and her husband, a Trinity Annual Conference pastor, enjoy walking in the outdoors.