Written By Josiah Kennealy, USA
A while back, I got together with a friend over coffee. We were working on a project, and I noticed we weren’t on the same page. We were going to meet for one hour. We spent the first 45 minutes talking about sports and other trivial things. Just as I was about to bring up the issue I had asked us to get together about, my friend announced that he had to leave early. We had coffee and accomplished nothing. Even though I had an agenda, we wasted time talking about nothing significant, and I missed an opportunity.
This is what normal conversation looks like for a lot of people. We all do this at different times. Think about the number of times you’ve gotten together with a friend and spent several minutes or even a whole conversation talking about the weather.
A lot changed for me when I began dating the girl whom I am now married to. Right off the bat, she asked deep, intentional questions. With my wife, there is no such thing as a shallow or surface level conversation. At first, this felt very awkward and outside of my comfort zone. But having tasted the benefits of having meaningful conversations, and I don’t want to settle for anything less!
The Bible give us a few things to consider as we engage in everyday conversations, which I’ve found helpful.
1. Be wise
In Colossians 4:5, Paul says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” Paul sees everyday conversations as opportunities to represent Jesus. He reminds us that we can stand out and represent God well in every text, email, post on social media, and face to face meeting. In a world that fills our time with conversations about the weather, let’s try to go deeper and talk about matters of the heart.
Paul starts his advice with the words “be wise”. Wisdom is the ability to apply our knowledge and understanding of God’s ways and will to our thoughts and actions. It is one of the main themes in the Bible, and it’s something we can pray for (James 1:5). When given the opportunity to ask God for anything, Solomon asked for wisdom. God loved that Solomon asked for wisdom so much that He also gave Solomon everything else that he could have wanted (1 Kings 2:7-15).
When we bring wisdom to our conversations, we bring purpose and meaning. We can glorify God. This will help us avoid missing opportunities.
2. Be bold
Making the most of every opportunity to minister with our words takes wisdom—and boldness.
Peter in the Bible is both an example of someone with boldness, as well as someone who lacks boldness. When Peter denied Jesus three times, he was probably the poorest example of boldness (Luke 22).
But months later, we see the same person on the opening day of the church in Acts 2, and something is different about him. Here, Peter preaches boldly to 3,000 people and they are all added to the early church. Boldness was given to Peter when the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost, and it created such a stark difference! Where Peter once lacked boldness, he was now filled with it.
Like Peter, we can either approach conversations on our own (with fear) or with God (in faith). We can speak either out of our own insecurities, or our God-given confidence. In our own lives, boldness can take the shape of being willing to initiate, asking great questions, and leading deep conversations.
We don’t need to wait for someone else to start meaningful conversation. We are called to lead the way by initiating. Pick up the phone. Schedule the coffee appointment or meeting. Have someone over in your office or living room. We can ask open-ended questions instead of closed-ended questions, such as, “What was the highlight of your weekend?” instead of “Did you have a good weekend?”
Being bold can lead us to deep conversations that truly matter. How many more times do we want to pause and say, “Well, it’s a nice day outside.” Why not ask the person we’re speaking with, “How’s it going inside your soul?” Let’s push beyond talking about the weather and get to the crux of the matter.
3. Be attentive and encouraging
All throughout the Bible, we are encouraged to “listen” more than we speak, whether it’s listening to God’s word (James 1:19), listening to good counsel (Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 5:1-23), or just listening to others in general.
Perhaps the most underrated component of our conversations is the ability to listen. Yet, studies show that much of communication is non-verbal. When we listen, nod, lean forward, smile and put away our cell phones, these small actions demonstrate that the person we are listening to is important!
After listening, we can reply with words that build up. One of my favorite things to do is to encourage other people. I don’t mind being encouraged, either! Who doesn’t? We hold incredible power in our mouths—the power of life and death (See Proverbs 18:21).
Ephesians 4:29 is one of my favorite verses: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” We aren’t merely called to make people feel good, but to meet their needs. We can do this by really listening, and using our words wisely.
4. Be willing to have crucial conversations
It’s natural for humans everywhere to put off hard conversations. We might find it awkward or unnatural to talk about purity and accountability, or we might find it difficult to ask for help, when in reality, we’re struggling at work. But the benefits of having a tough talk outweigh the consequences of avoiding them.
I remember when I first started dating my wife. I was too nervous to talk about my feelings for fear of being misunderstood, being hurt, or being rejected. It was not easy sharing my hopes, dreams and feelings with her. But I’m so glad I took that step! Having difficult conversations are so worth it when someone accepts you and how you feel. I now have a meaningful relationship with her and we talk about anything and everything.
The decision is ours. Are you willing to step out of the land of familiar into a life with rewarding, riveting, and stimulating conversation?
When we are willing to be wise, bold, attentive, encouraging and have crucial conversations, we will discover the joy on the other side of the comfort zone!