Happy Saturday, dear gal! And welcome to Dressed for My Day, where on Saturdays (beginning last Saturday, in fact!) we talk about inner beauty.
As I’ve been meeting new people recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about conversation. I want to be known as a woman who is easy to talk to, one who listens well and one who makes everyone at the table feel welcomed and significant. Don’t you want that, too? So today I’m sharing 6 steps to becoming a better, more gracious conversationalist.
Some of these tips are more about adjusting your mindset and others really encourage us to work on ingrained behaviors. See if you already do these 6 steps or if you, like me, need to work on one or two of them.
#1 – Set out to bless more than your are blessed.
For many years I served as a “mentor mom” for a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. Those Monday mornings were not about me; they were geared to minister to those weary, young moms. I often had to remind myself of that simple truth as I drove to those two hour gatherings to converse with gals young enough to be my daughters. My goal was to make those young women feel valued, heard, understood and encouraged.
But it wouldn’t hurt us to have that same servant spirit as we approach each and every opportunity for conversation. Whether you’re the teacher of a women’s Bible study or the new gal in the group, make it your goal to be a blessing rather than just seeking a blessing. In the end you’ll minister greatly to those you encounter and you’ll probably feel all the more blessed as well.
#2 – Try to “discover” the other person.
I’ve learned that if my goal is simply to volley back and forth sentences, that’s about all I’ll accomplish in my conversation. She’ll say something, I’ll say something, she’ll respond, I’ll respond, blah, blah, blah.
But when I try to “discover” the person I’m talking to I become a woman on a mission. I get more excited about hearing what she has to say. I ask more probing questions and I really lean in and listen to her answers. In the end I’ve actually gotten to know a fascinating person.
#3 – Put your phone away.
Come on gals, if at all possible put that phone away. My people – my kids, husband, parents – know that if I don’t answer my phone it’s because I’m working or I’m in conversation with someone. And they know I’ll get back to them as soon as possible. But the person I’m with is my priority.
If I ever do hear my phone buzz in my purse while I’m sitting at lunch with a new friend, I silently remind myself that 20 years ago this wouldn’t have happened…and I haven’t become the President of the United States since then so I don’t need to answer that phone! Even if someone’s trying to get through to me with an emergency, God can handle them until I check my phone later. Yes, ladies, He really can.
#4 – Ask gentle but gutsy questions.
Now I’m not encouraging you to pry or invade the sweet gal’s privacy. Heaven’s sake, let’s not be nosy nuisances! But let’s do have the courage to press in and really hear a woman’s story.
In fact, that’s a great question to ask. “I’d love to get to know you. Would you tell me your story?” I’m going to give you a heads up: She’s going to stare at you and wonder what in the world you mean by that. No one else has ever asked her to share her story! So you’ll have to help her out a little. Tell her you’d like to hear anything she would feel comfortable sharing – where and how she grew up, the highlights and lowlights of her life, how she met her husband, why she chose the profession she’s in, etc.
Remember, you’re out to “discover her!”
#5 – Listen more than you talk.
I used to think that I needed to tell my new friend all about me so she could know me and love me. Ha! But did you know that studies show we actually feel closer to people who have listened to us rather than those who have shared everything there is to tell about themselves. We may think “to know me is to love me,” but, in fact, you’re more likely to love me and feel close to me if I’ve listened well to you.
In other words, feeling like we’ve been heard is one of the best feelings around. Everyone wants to feel heard…even if they don’t know it yet. Ha! So listen, listen, listen.
#6 – Encourage more sharing.
Not to sound repetitive, but lean in and ask for more. Don’t settle for simple answers. Ask why, how, when and what next. Ask how that made her feel, what she did after that happened, what she learned from that experience, how she saw God in that mess or how she grew as a result.
I’ve noticed that one of the ways to discourage more sharing is to offer to fix the other person’s problem, situation, dilemma, relationship, etc. In fact, that’s stopped some of my conversations dead in their tracks. Oops. That’s why I’m trying to listen more without interposing any of my own thoughts, suggestions or opinions. Besides, a gracious conversationalist is one who gives more grace than advice, judgment or opinion.
How this helps cultivate inner beauty…
The Bible teaches us to be slow to speak, slow to anger and quick to listen. It also teaches us that our words have great power – power to destroy or power to build. So obviously our conversations matter.
This weekend let’s pause to think about how we can become a more gracious conversationalist …to bless others and glorify God. But let’s also choose at least one or two of these steps to put into practice immediately.
Which of these steps speaks most powerfully to you? And do you have additional tips for becoming a more gracious conversationalist?
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Blessed for My Day
Did you know that the longest one-on-one conversation between Jesus and another person recorded in the Bible is the dialog between Him and the Samaritan woman at the well? Isn’t that amazing? Not only was she a woman, but she was considered a “dog” by most Jews of the day.
But Jesus honored this woman with conversation. And that’s exactly what we have the opportunity to do when we pause, put away distractions, lean in, ask questions and listen to another person. We honor them. We communicate that they are worth hearing, worth knowing. And if we listen and communicate graciously, we also remind them that God knows and loves them, too.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” ~ John 4:7