The Holidays are filled with times of gathering to share good food and conversation. Sometimes the gathering is with family and friends with whom conversation comes quick and easy. At other times, it is a schmooze kind of get-together in which people try to invent conversation or there is a kind of competition about who can out-best the others in the most interesting or cool thing.
I remember one Thanksgiving table in which I felt hostage as one person monopolized the conversation about a movie coming out that day. It was another sequel or perhaps a prequel. I had enjoyed the franchise from its beginning when I was much younger. However, around the table on that Thanksgiving, I was now not so interested in the next of the series. It seemed that what was a fun and enjoyable movie was now a tool to manipulate and show off a personal perspective or brilliance.
I find that I need to prepare and even tool up for certain occasions so that I can help a conversation to be open and enjoyable for everyone at the table. One of the keys to engaging in lively and energizing conversation is usually steering away from making statements and more toward asking the right questions. Not questions for which I want answers as much as questions the other wants to share. People like to tell their story, but often need prompting and inviting in order to do so.
Ask either of my daughters, who live at some distance. When I call to check-in, I can easily get in the mode of grilling with questions. A conversation more about what I want to know rather than what either wants to share. So, I remember, a good conversation is not so much what I want to know as much as what the other wants to share.
On one of my drives around the district, I remember listening to a podcast by David Burkus on being an effective conversationalist. He mentioned one question which has hung with me — “What are you looking forward to?” It gets a person thinking about what they are passionate and excited about in life. This can be the beginning of an engaging conversation. I need to take caution not to ask the question because what I really want to do is tell the other what I am looking forward to, but because I am really interested in the other person and what brings them delight.
Spend time preparing for the holiday meal by shopping, cooking, and decorating. Then, spend time thinking and praying over those who will gather around the table and consider what conversation would bring a light in their eye and a brightness to their faces? What a way to make a holiday and holy-day!
Page Community UMC, Page, AZ (Pastor Linda Larsen)
Pahrump Valley UMC, Pahrump, NV (Pastor Lana Fong)
Parker UMC, Parker, AZ (Pastor George Barcus)
Global Community UMC, Las Vegas, NV (Rev. Antonieta Fernandes)
United Methodist Social Ministry (UMSM)