Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Keep the Conversation Going
For Moms and Children

From Pat Hershey Owen's book, Home is a Fun Place to Be, I learned to play this game with my children when they were very small. We sat on the floor together. I would start a conversation with a statement or a question, and I would roll the ball to one of my children. In order for the child to roll the ball back to me or to a sibling, he had to make a comment that kept the conversation going.
For example, I might say, "I like the color red. Do you?"
If the child just said "Yes, ma'am." the conversation ended there. So, the child would have to try again to come up with something that would move the conversation along. They might say something like, "Apples are my favorite red things. What is your favorite red thing?" Or, the child could say to a sibling, "What about you. Do you like red, too?"
From this game, the children learned that conversation is similar to rolling a ball back and forth or playing catch. They learned that if someone opens a conversation, it's selfish to "hold onto the ball" of conversation. It's thoughtful and more fun to "roll the ball" back, so that the talk keeps going.
Obvious as it should be, that's not a bad thing for adults to remind outselves, as well. In her book, The Personal Touch, Rachel Crabb writes, "When someone makes a comment to you, listen and then respond in a way that invites further conversation. For example, if someone says she has seen a good movie, instead of saying, "I did, too," ask her another question. "What did you like best about it?" That invites her into a conversation with you.
Rachel continues, "If a person comments, "I am really feeling down, and my job is bugging me," don't simply toss it off by saying you will pray for her. "How is it bothering you?" or "Are your cowokers difficult to work with?" are questions that will draw her out and let her know that you really are interested in how she feels and what she is experiencing."
Whenever I introduce two people, I try to throw out a conversational "ball" that can get a new friendship "rolling". For example, I might say, "Mary loves to cross-stitch," or "Michael and his wife just moved here from Delaware." That way, the other person can say something like, "Tell me about your cross-stitching," or, "What brought you to our city, Michael?"
We've all had those awkward times when we've tried to keep a conversation going, but the other person let it die by saying, "yes," "no, or some other monosyllable. If it's someone we know well, we can usually pick up on the fact that they are busy, tired, angry, or depressed. If it's someone we've just met, we can guess that the person is probably shy and ill at ease. This is particularly true if the person is young and inexperienced or if the person is the only new figure in a crowd of people who already know each other well. No matter what the cause, prayer, love, listening, and patience are called for.
And, then, there are people like me who sometimes hog the conversational ball by talking too much. "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions." Proverbs 18:2 Ouch!
It's good to share something about yourself, so that the other person can know you more deeply. But, then, ask a question that spurs them to share as well, so that you are engaging in a real, two-way conversation.

Keep the ball rolling!


Rebecca said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog today-and leaving a comment! It made my day! And thanks to you, I have a new book to look for in the library (the one from your previous post about Hospitality!)

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for stopping by here, as well. I hope you will enjoy the book on hospitality.


Mrs. C said...

Thanks so much for visiting my blog! I enjoyed this post on conversation starters. Real conversation is a lot art in many families.
Mrs. C