The other day my husband and I were discussing something in the car, nothing momentous, but I waited for him to draw breath and then said my piece. This only served to confuse him because what I had said didn’t really answer his point, it was just the point in my mind I had decided to relay when I had stopped listening to him!

To his credit he called me on it, I admitted my error and we had a good laugh about it. But why did I do it? I get so frustrated when people don’t listen to me and I know that if I want to be a good listener I need to be quiet and listen to what is being said, not be sitting there drifting off planning my formulaic rejoinder.

Don’t you just hate those conversations with people who are only aiming to get their own view across and every time the conversation turns to something else they pounce on it and draw it back to their agenda.? And what about those conversations you’ve already had with people but they forget so you have to hear it for the umpteenth time and nod and smile again in all the right places?

The whole art of conversation with anyone is that it is a 2 way street, us and them, talking and listening.There is that old joke about prayer and speaking to God “Why is it that when I speak to God it is called prayer yet when he speaks to me it’s called schizophrenia?”.

And then there is the whole issue of what people say, what they mean to say, what you think they said and so on. It’s a real arena of awkwardness. Well it is for me anyway. Not having been outside to work for 5 years and being at home with little ones I’ve lost the art of conversation somewhat. I’ve said before small talk is necessary but I find it arduous. If only conversation came with an instruction manual.

Then there are others I know who only seem to speak to me to impart sly jibes and digs. They’re very clever about it and wrap it up in concern or other things but it always shows. Maybe I recognise it because shamefully, I do it from time to time.

What about all those things we think and feel but cannot say? Either because they are inappropriate or would hurt? James had it right when he wrote his sermon on the  tongue and the things we say. “With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women He made in His image” (James 3)

A friend of mine will sadly, shortly be going through a divorce. I can’t help feeling it will be a blessing in the circumstances she is in but yet I wonder if I missed the boat on speaking to her about some issues. If I had been a better friend and not always agreed with her or told her what she wanted to hear maybe things would be different now.

Why is it so hard to speak into other people’s lives? Largely because I know I am a critical person so I misjudge my motives a lot of the time. There may be times when it’s appropriate but I haven’t learned how to discern them yet.

When we are babies we like to say “mine, mine, that’s mine” and as we age we tend to do the same with speaking to our peers. The art of give and take and listening well in conversation has to be practised continually. It doesn’t come easily to a selfish person like myself but I am going to make myself work on it because it will be a character improvement. And if I don’t have anything to say I could just be silent rather than dredging up some unnecessary witticism.

Speak to you later…. or maybe I won’t.

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4 thoughts on “The art of conversation.

  1. As my grandmother (probably all our grandmothers) used to say, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason…” Yes, listening is difficult, and I, too, have caught myself formulating a response while not listening to what the other person is saying. I’ve actually had to stop myself from uttering my pre-planned answer to apologize and say, “I’m sorry. Would you say that again, please?” Awkward! But at least it brings me outside myself to focus on the other person. Which is where my focus should have been all along. 🙂

  2. Great post! And yes, so true with most people. In fact, the only people I know that aren’t that way are therapists and psychiatrists! Haha! I too need to “listen” more and not “be on the edge waiting to say my piece.” The other day, I asked a friend of mine,”Why do you ask me a question, but interrupt me while I am telling it to you?” Sometimes, we just need to be gently reminded and that goes for me too.

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