We've all received one word answers before. We've asked questions like, "How was school today?" and gotten, "good" as a response. I've talked with more than a few parents and students frustrated with the stone walls their kids or friends throw up at them. How do we get past those barriers to good conversation?
Some kids are naturally talkative, others seem like they could be content never saying another word to anyone. Friends can be the same way. Carrying all the conversation can become wearisome after a string of monosyllabic responses. I'm no James Dobson, but I've observed that we tend to want to have conversation on our own terms. We want our kids to be open when it's convenient for us and to go somewhere and be quiet when we have a tight schedule. Also, we are too half-hearted in many of our attempts, being as easy to read as the newspaper. "He's saying he wants to talk to me, but his body language tells a different story. He doesn't really want to know what's going on in my world."
Jesus was such a good conversational example. Think of his interaction with the disciples. Isn't it possible they were so forthright due to the fact that they spent time together walking, working, eating and talking?*
A couple of days ago I was trying to make sense of the mess the well driller left in my front yard. Large piles of clay and dirt needed to be broken up and carted off of what used to be grass. Andrew was inside reading so I poked my head in the door and said, "Wanna help me?" He threw his book down as if he thought I'd never ask and grabbed his shovel from the garage. We spent the next hour and a half talking the best way the male gender knows how--while doing something kinesthetic. After a half an hour of small talk he dropped a bomb on me and we spent the next twenty minutes hashing out a problem he had been having. It was incredibly meaningful time that developed very naturally.
Girls are different. The other day Anna and I were sitting at the dinner table after everyone else had moved on to other things. We had been joking about a few recent events and before I knew it I was in a conversation that blew me away. I could hardly get a word in as she opened up about the boys in her class and the drama on the playground between her friends. I literally had to hold back tears thinking, "Can this really be happening to me? How is my daughter old enough to talk like this? Amazing!"
It occurs to me that impatient people will rarely get to enjoy good conversation, for it cannot be forced. If you desire openness in your relationships, whether with children, teens or friends, you must learn to be like the sun. Each morning the sun gently warms the pedals of the rose and slowly the flower unfolds revealing the wonder within. Impatient people try to force open the rose because they don't want to take the time to let thing happen naturally. Here is an axiom for the garden: Forced open roses break. The same is true of people and conversation.
If you want to gain the hearts of your friends and family there's nothing like the patience of warm sunshine. Good conversation doesn't happen on demand.
*Luke 8:1-3; 9:28,57; 10:38-42
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