Tag Archives: conversation

Be Curious

Seems like nowadays lots of people aren’t curious about their neighbors, their coworkers, new people at church.

Which is too bad because if you’re not curious, you miss out on making a potential friend.  Curiosity has gotten a bad rap of late. Most people now link curiosity with being nosy.

i don’t see it like that. My curiosity is part of my drive to know people and to form connections, maybe even a new friendship.

My husband and I made some good friends a few years ago just because we asked some questions. It went like this:

During the greet time at our church, I happened to notice a couple I’d never met.

“Hi, my name’s Dena. We moved to Colorado last year.”

“Nice to meet you,” the man said. “I’m Doug, and this is my wife, Mia.”

We shook hands. (it could have ended right there. I’m glad to say, it didn’t.)

“Where did you move from?” Doug asked.

“Most recently from Southern California, but we’ve lived in lots of different states.”

Mia said, “Us, too. We’re originally from Ohio.”

“Ohio! I went to school in Ohio.”

Doug perked up. “Really? What college?

“Oberlin. I went to the conservatory of music there. Have you heard of it?”

“Of course,” Doug said. “My brother went to Oberlin, but that was probably way before your time.”

Doug appeared to be around my age, so I asked, “When did your brother attend?”

“He went during the seventies.”

“That’s when I went!”

“Oh,” Doug sounded doubtful, “he went to the college. Competed on the swim team. I doubt you’d have met him.”

A spooky but exciting feeling started to zip around my stomach.”Now, this is really weird. I dated someone on the swim team, so maybe I met your brother.”

“His name is Bill.”

“Bill! I knew Bill. Tall, lean, long hair, did the distance races.”

“Yeah, that’s him.”

Doug and Mia and I started laughing .

i shook my head. “This is amazing.”

We finished our conversation, ending with updated news of Doug’s brother, Bill. Then we made plans to meet for dinner the following week. Doug and Mia turned out to be wonderful people and good friends.

It would have been easy to have simply said, “Hi, nice to meet you,” and have sat down again to wait for the sermon to begin.

But if we’d done that, we would have missed out on a truly fun and surprising conversation.

And a lovely friendship where both couples have enriched each other.

Nowadays, whenever I meet someone new, I try to imprint their voices and faces in my mind. Who knows? This new acquaintance might someday become my long-time, loyal friend.

“My father used to say that when you die, if you’ve got five real friends, you’ve had a great life.” (Lee Iacocca)

The Listening Gift

There’s a popular talk show hostess that I like to watch. For the most part, I like her show. But she’s a terrible interviewer. The guests rarely get to finish a sentence before she  interrupts to make her commentary, clever comment, or to go off on her own related experience.

Another show—this one hosted by a well-respected news analyst—is even worse. Mainly, I agree with his opinions. But when he asks his guest a question, he or she rarely gets to finish with a well-thought out reply before the host begins to talk over the speaker. It leaves me muttering, “I tuned in to the show because I wanted to hear what the guest had to say. I already know what you (host’s name) think.”

I think we all tend to do what the talk show host and the news analyst do…from time to time. I’ve caught myself interrupting in conversations, too.

I try not to make it a habit. When I was little my mother frequently scolded me and my siblings with a “Don’t interrupt!”

The art of listening is becoming rare today. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a conversation with someone who actually behaved as if what you had to say was interesting?

Wouldn’t it be great to to meet someone who was sincerely interested in you?

Most of us, I suspect, would gladly trade a few of our Christmas presents for a half hour conversation with someone where it was actually a conversation, a give and take, a “so what are you thinking about these days?” sort of dialogue.

Wouldn’t that make a great Christmas present to give to someone on your list?

Here’s how I would package my “gift,” using the word “ALTER” to remember my decision to listen well:

Ask a sincere question. (Not just “how are you?)

Listen (without injecting my own story.)

Train myself to stay focused. (Politely hold off any potential well-meaning interrupters)

Empathy (Mirror the speaker’s mood)

Related question. (Shows I am listening and comprehending the speaker.)

The best Christmas gift
The best Christmas gift

My time and my attention are a great gift to someone who needs a listening ear.

This Christmas I’ll be talking to skads of people. May the Lord help me to remember ALTER each time a friend starts to talk to me!


I think the American church has lost the skill or gift of showing hospitality. It seems years ago, we were all visiting neighbors, and providing meals and inviting new attenders of the church to come over for a get-acquainted meal.

Now, it hardly ever happens. I don’t know why, because there’s really nothing very difficult about showing hospitality.

Go ahead. Put your tech stuff away. (You won’t die!) Turn off the TV. (You can always record your favorite show.)

Hospitality can be as easy as this:

“Hey, you’re new. Wanna come on over for lunch? Naw, you don’t have to bring anything. We’re just cooking brats on the barbecue. You can? Great! Here’s our address.”


“Hey, I’m so glad you moved onto our block. Wanna come on over for tea sometime? You’re free? Great! How about tomorrow?”

When your guest(s) arrives, here are some great conversation starters:

  • How did you two meet?
  • What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
  • Where all have you lived?
  • Where were you born?
  • What kind of work do you do?

I’m sure you can think of your own questions. People love to talk about themselves. And they’ll remember you for expressing an interest in them. (Just make sure that when you ask your questions you’re prepared to listen!) Who knows? You may have just begun a wonderful and rewarding friendship.

I think a lot of Christians think that ministry and serving is all about doing some great and glorious preaching, or going to Haiti, or giving humongous amounts of money, or running a soup kitchen.

But one of the grandest things we can do for God’s Kingdom is simply show an interest in others. You probably wouldn’t know it when you see people pass by. But most—maybe all of them—yearn for someone to take an interest in them.

I know. At times—such as7-20-11 010 when we move and start going to a new church— I’ve been one of those people.

“Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13 NIV Bible)