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How the Art of Conversation Has Transformed my Life

By: Guest Blogger

It was one of those spring days.

The sun smiled warmly, and the air carried the fragrance of flowers. Perfect day for a bridal shower.

As the guests trickled in, I began to feel like a paperclip in the safety pin tin. I quickly realized this was due to the fact that there were very few people present with whom I was even distantly acquainted. The ladies mingled, chatting and laughing familiarly, while I stood awkwardly on the fringes of conversation.

My sweet friend Anna (the bride-to-be) had not yet arrived, so I knew that immediate action on my part would be required if I wanted to avoid further social discomfort. I stepped closer to one of the smaller clusters and slid into the dialogue.

“So how do you ladies know Anna…?”

Later on, after the future-bride had appeared and guests were seated, I sat at a lovely luncheon table surrounded by women who were total strangers. An uneasy silence hung over us like an invisible chandelier.

In that moment, I decided to be brave.

I decided to end the misery. I decided to be the one to make this fun. Trying to address them in a casual, friendly manner, I started out by asking their names. Proper responses given, the conversation once again fell flat. I geared up, pulled out my mental list of questions, and started asking. Pretty soon, the entire table was prattling merrily and (I’m sure) sighing inwardly with relief.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” -Winnie the Pooh

This seemingly obvious yet profoundly difficult truth has become more and more apparent to me in the last few years. Since entering my twenty-somethings, I’ve noticed a tragic lack of conversational skills among my peers.

There’s a troubling trend among talkers nowadays that looks like this:

“I was at the mall the other day and…”

“Yeah, that reminds me of when…”

“That’s like this morning when I woke up…”

“I was driving east and…”

Do you see what’s happening here?  Nothing but a mutual exchange of ME.

This is a comparative-conversation, as opposed to an investment-conversation. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

I’m not saying that we should never tell a fun story or share a personal experience, but we should certainly cultivate a heart of service in conversation.

So I’m about to give you the secret key to being comfortable in almost any social setting you may encounter. Are you ready? Here it is:

ASK QUESTIONS.

I’ve been blessed with wise parents who understand the art of conversation. They know that having good social skills isn’t about being an extrovert. My mother, especially, is an expert question-asker. She learned this from her parents, who traveled around the world as missionaries, asking questions as they went. They talked with waitresses, ambassadors, busboys, you name it.

Everywhere they journeyed, they were always interested in people.  And guess what? People loved them.

Dale Carnegie, in his book How To Win Friends And Influence People, wrote,

“To be interesting, be interested.”

Also, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

So, you may be wondering, is the point of this entire post just about getting people to like you? Of course the answer is, no! The whole point is to serve Christ by serving others through the art of conversation.

After all, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24).

The natural by-product of serving others in conversation is their mutual interest in you!

Do you like being the awkward wallflower girl, standing there rubbing your shoes together and wishing you could just melt into the carpet? Of course not! Nobody does! That’s why it’s so important for us, as ambassadors of Christ, to know how to talk to people, and to make them feel like the loved, valued, important image-bearers that they are.

Besides, it’s super fun to talk with an experienced communicator! My mom always says, “A great conversation should be like a game of tennis. I hit the ‘ball’ (question) over to you, then you answer and hit the ‘ball’ back to me (with another question).”

But if you’re trying to converse with someone who hasn’t developed this skill, chances are you’ll need some help.

Here are 3 Practical Tips:

1) Create your own “mental list” of questions.

Try to avoid short-answer questions. Think of questions that will require longer explanations.

  • What occupies you from day to day?
  • Where do you go to church?
  • What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
  • Where do you work?

2) Listen well and ask follow-up questions.

Pay attention when your question is being answered. Pick something that’s mentioned and ask a more specific question about that thing.

  • Oh, and how long have you been doing that?
  • What do you like about your church?
  • How did you become interested in that?
  • Do you see yourself working there long-term? Why or why not?

3) Be sensitive.

Sometimes people (especially the shy ones) can feel like they’re being interrogated if you’re firing question after question. Don’t run them over like a bulldozer.

  • Be aware of body language and facial expressions that signal discomfort.
  • Volunteer information about yourself if they don’t know how to ask questions in return.
  • Be careful about getting too personal too quickly, especially with guys.
  • Maintain good eye contact (without being creepy!), showing that you’re engaged in their responses.

Personally, I love great conversations! I’m not perfect by any means, but what I have learned has truly transformed my relationships and life. I’m convinced that if you develop the art of conversation, it will take your relationships to a level you never thought possible.

Let’s chat about this a little bit more in the comments section below…

  • Do you struggle with social awkwardness or feelings of insecurity around strangers?
  • Are you glorifying God and serving others with your social skills?
  • Where can you practice the art of conversation in the next couple weeks?

*This guest post was written by our sweet friend, Elizabeth Halcomb. If you’re interested in writing a guest post for us check out this page. 

Photo credit: Flicker.com | N00/9645066390

How the Art of Conversation Has Transformed my Life

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  • Kay

    Yes… I’m very much a wallflower when it comes to talking with people I don’t know. When I was younger, I would talk to everyone and try to be everyone’s friend, but as I grew older, I think I developed this fear that people might not like me or I wouldn’t fit in. Therefore, I just decide to be quiet most of the time… It’s a really bad habit I hope I can break! My family started going to a new church about 2 years ago, and I have little to no real friends there yet. Maybe I could practice there? Thanks so much for talking about this!! 🙂

    • I think practicing at your new church is a great idea! You can also practice at home with your siblings or parents. Find a tennis ball (or any item you can toss) and practice asking questions. The ball represents a question. The only way you can toss the ball is by asking a question. You ask, then toss. The other person catches, then asks, then tosses back. It’s great practice 🙂

  • Thanks for this article, Elizabeth! Being an (often selfish) introvert, this is one of my weak areas. I’m printing your practical tips and will try to memorize the “question list” as well as come up with some of my own. 🙂 And yes, shy people can easily feel overwhelmed when being asked too many questions. I’ve been there before!

    • @hannahmcintosh:disqus Great idea! Memorizing the question list would be a very beneficial use of your time. Learning how to be a great conversationalist is a priceless skill. So glad you enjoyed this blog post. 🙂

  • LOVE this, Liz! Great post! 🙂

    • She did a great job! Thanks Liz <3

    • Elizabeth Halcomb

      🙂 <3

  • Elizabeth Williams

    I’m 22 and I’ve DEFINITELY noticed that it can be really hard talking to people my age because they only want to talk about themselves the WHOLE time. I still try to reach out, though. And I also try not to limit myself. For instance, not only talking to people my age or people I know, but talking to anyone. I can definitely relate to feeling insecure around people, though. Sometimes I don’t talk to people like I should because I’m worried what they’ll think about me or something like that. And another thing is that I’ll worry about what if they are one of those people who act like you’re weird for trying to talk to them(I’ve encountered plenty of people like that). It’s one of those things that I have to pray about and ask God to help me with because I’m naturally kinda introverted.

    • Thanks for joining in the conversation @disqus_5YpbXzg7FS:disqus I can definitely relate to what you said here, “Sometimes I don’t talk to people like I should because I’m worried what they’ll think about me or something like that.” I often look back at conversations and think, “I wonder if I said the right things.” “Maybe I talked too much.” “Maybe I didn’t talk enough.” I constantly have to remind myself that I am living to please Christ and not those I interact with. I need to strive to glorify Him in every conversation and leave it at that. I am so much more confident in my conversations when I don’t worry about what the other person might think. -Bethany

  • Grace (meyougod.blogspot.com)

    This is so helpful and encouraging! I am definitely very introverted with people I don’t know (although with my friends I tend to talk on and on and on…). I also have a good friend with whom conversation always seems to fall flat (she’s usually on her phone). I’ll have to work on asking more questions and follow-up questions to try to keep a conversation going. Thanks for the help!

  • Carliss

    This is an area God has really been challenging me in lately! I’ve noticed a need for deeper conversation among my peers. But I’m not naturally a people person so it’s been a bit harder for me. God has blessed me with several friends who are super great at reaching out and talking to people though. And they are constantly challenging me to step out of my comfort zone! I’ve learned a lot from their example, but still have a long way to go! another area this is extremely practical in is discipleship! Lately God has been putting on my heart a desire to mentor a couple of younger girls. And that requires guided, constructive conversation!

    One more thing, this is kinda off topic but I was wondering if you would consider writing about texting guys? It’s an area I’ve been praying a lot about recently. Should single girls be texting guy friends? Or what kind of boundries do you set for texting guys? If anyone else has comments/suggestions on this I would love to hear them! 🙂 thanks!

    • Hannah Grant

      Oh, Carliss, it does get hard with these sort of relationships! I don’t have a phone (so no texting for me!) but the thing that I’ve found helpful with emailing them is, “Would I be comfortable with other people reading this, especially my parents?” If not, it’s gone a step too far! Also, “Would I be comfortable saying this face-to-face with this guy I’m texting?”
      Praying for you!

      • Elizabeth Williams

        I love what you said about emailing guys, “Would I be comfortable with other people reading this?” Because if you’re not, you are probably getting too personal. That’s something I’m taking into consideration with all of my text messages, “Would I be ashamed if my parents read them?”

        • Carliss

          Thank you all for your helpful suggestions! 🙂

    • Elizabeth Halcomb

      Thanks for your thoughts Carliss!

      Praise God that you’re being drawn to mentor other girls! That’s one of the best ways to practice conversation. 🙂

      Texting guys is a huge topic. A post about that subject would be super awesome! Here’s what I do personally: I don’t make a habit of texting/chatting guys on a regular basis. I’ve decided that the wisest course for my life is to enjoy guy friendships primarily through in-person group settings. To me, texting a guy regularly would be like going out to coffee with him regularly (even if you’re “just friends” and not dating). I know that, as a woman, I get excited by guy interactions in a way that’s different from girl-chats. It’s easy to become dependent on male attention or affirmation, even if it’s just a casual friendship.

      All that to say, I also avoid being legalistic about this issue. If I need to text a guy for a purpose (“where are we meeting tomorrow night?”), that’s fine.

      Hope that helps!

  • Elizabeth

    This was a great post!!!! Thank you Elizabeth! Nice name btw.
    Something I have been thinking about lately is “how personal is TOO personal?” I’m the kind of person who doesn’t do small talk easily. I love to have deep conversations. The Holy Spirit is the Christian’s friend, and I’ve found it a great help to rely on the Spirit rather than my own flesh when talking to people. But the art of conversation is something I’ve just begun to take seriously. So this post was great for me!
    It’s refreshing to come to the girl defined blog and have a community of girls striving to live more like Jesus. Thanks everybody!

    • Elizabeth Halcomb

      Haha, thanks Elizabeth! Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

      I love deep conversations, too! I think what you mentioned about relying on the Holy Spirit is key. The more we’re renewing our mind in Scripture, the more the Spirit can/will give us discernment.

  • Jesusfreak17

    I can certainly relate to the conversation skills lacking. It’s really bad in my family at Christmas and thanksgiving and such. It’s hard to get people to start talking, but once they do it’s all about them…
    But great tips! I’ll definitely take them into consideration.

  • SavedbyGrace

    Wow! This post was right up my alley! When talking to people, I cover my insecurities of being nervous or awkward with being sarcastic or loud. My adrenaline starts going crazy, and my heart starts pumping so hard that I feel like its going to explode! There was a time where I could talk to anyone in a completely comfortable manner! Well, I ended up getting unwanted encounters a few times in my life, from guys who ended up harassing me:( Ever since then, I’ve been comfortable talking to girls, but REALLY uncomfortable talking to guys! I’ve kind of swung from one extreme to the next. And now i get REALLY freaked out talking to guys that I don’t know, because I’m not sure what they will or will not do. I can’t even go into Starbucks and talk to the male baristas for fear of how they will take it! Suggestions anyone!!?? I’ve got a real problem and i’m not sure how to deal with it! I can only talk to guys that I am 100% comfortable around. You know, the guys I can, without doubt get a good vibe from:) The guys I know that won’t harass me. Any help would b much appreciated!! I will definitely take what’s already been said into consideration:) Loved the post!

    • Elizabeth Halcomb

      Hi SavedbyGrace!

      Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts! It is so easy to over-compensate our feelings of insecurity with being overly dynamic! And I’m sorry you’ve had such unfortunate interactions with guys!

      This may sound basic, but I would suggest striving to be yourself based on who you are in Christ. Try shifting your mental focus on the other person as an opportunity to serve and show Christ’s love, instead of worrying what they’re thinking about you.

      This obviously applies to everyone, but it especially helps in respect to guy interactions. Most men are friendly, even unbelievers! We should try to be an example of godly womanhood in our interactions with guys, so it’s ok to be friendly without being flirty or overly demonstrative. 🙂

      • SavedbyGrace

        Thank you sooo much Elizabeth!! I’m encouraged and excited to try out you tips and suggestions. I want sooo badly for the Lord to shine through me when I speak to other people (especially guys:) ), but sometimes it feels like my nervousness speaks louder than my actual words:( I pray that your suggestions work on me! And I pray that I’ll start to open up a little more and be more warm and friendly! Thanks again for getting back with me! Again, amazing post!!! May the Lord bless you!

  • What about via text? It’s a lot easier to communicate person to person than it is via messaging, or text, but do you have further suggestions on how to communicate via text to someone who does not have the greatest conversational skills? It’s tough. I sometimes feel like an interrogator or something.

    • Elizabeth Halcomb

      Good question, Elizabeth! I think the same principle still applies, that is, to know when to start volunteering some information about yourself. They may actually be interested to know how you’re doing or what you’re up to, but it doesn’t occur to them to ask.
      Then again, I tend to be picky about how much time I spend texting. If someone doesn’t seem mutually interested in investing in the relationship, I usually won’t spend too much time trying to keep up with them via text.
      Hope that helps!

  • Quite Distinguished

    Wow! This is great Elizabeth! 🙂 Conversation truly is an art. I love how you pinpoint the focus and purpose of the conversation….it’s not conversation for conversation’s sake….but conversation for service and mutual benefit. I really admire skilful conversationalists; they make it look so easy and effortless, but I know a lot of intent and focus is involved in it.

    My sisters were always great conversationalists, so I found it easy to hide behind them when we were in groups (hey, they do all the talking, I still get to listen–not so bad)….but when I moved out on my own, I lost my “cover” and had to start stepping out on my own and either initiating conversations, or sitting in very awkward silence. Developing good conversationalism (is that a word?) isn’t easy. I could be a stellar conversationalist if all I talked about were myself, but that’s not really conversation–it’s a monologue.

    The pivotal point for me was realizing that I was working soo hard to be a great conversationalist….but not actually taking interest in the other person. God has been gracious in using that very uncomfortable time in my life (moving out) to stretch me way beyond what I thought possible. I’m still not a great conversationalist, but by God’s grace I am better than I was 2 years ago….and with time and practice I can only get better.

    This is an often overlooked topic. I’m glad you posted on it. 🙂

  • Chara

    Thanks for this helpful post! Do you have some suggestions for further reading or additional resources that you’d recommend for those desiring to grow in their conversational skills as a Christ-follower?

    • Elizabeth Williams

      I know that Mary Kaissan has a book called “Conversation Peace” and Nancy Leigh Demoss has a booklet “Power of Words.” However, I’ve never read them, so can’t say personally if they’re good.

  • Laina Bowen

    Liz! Such a fantastic post. Encouraging + challenging. Love it! : )

  • Madeline

    This was a great post. I have a hard time making conversation with new people and when I do I find the hardest part of conversation is keeping it going. This especially hard with guys. I feel like it is hard to interact with guys without them getting the wrong idea.

    • Melea

      I am the same way! I can initiate a conversation, but it’s SO hard to keep it going, and I am the exact same way with guys too…I guess that’s not such a bad thing, but I definitely should try not to be as shy around guys. Good to know there’s others like me out there! 🙂

  • Great post! There’s a good book I’ve found helpful called The power of eye contact: Your secret for success in business, love and life. My favorite point was to practice your conversation and eye contact skills with people who have to respond to you like people in the service industry. This builds your confidence to do the same in social situations. Love that idea!

  • Elisabeth

    Ahhh,This is Soo me!!I have always been the sheets and forest conversationalist!!Awkward, and when I tried to be out going feel flat on my face.But then I realized I was trying to hard, . And maby I just aught be shy.I say things to people when I can, and am trying to get God to help me with all problems in my life.Since I’m homeschooled,and don’t really get out or do much,I decided to start focusing on the thing I can do.Maby showing God’s love in a more discreet way.While getting my skills ready for my future husband.

  • Phoebe Saywell

    I’m fine with talking to people (being in a large family helps) but I find it really hard to give eye contact, especially to boys, I don’t know why, but it does make me look awkward! I wish I could master it!

  • Leah

    As an introvert I have never been a good conversationalist when it comes to strangers. (this IS influenced by whether you’re an introvert or extrovert). When I was younger I never really liked talking about myself with strangers (it felt self-centred and I didn’t think they would want to hear about me), which meant I gave short answers to their questions, and I felt nosy asking them questions about themselves. I knew I was uncomfortable answering their questions so I felt like they wouldn’t want to answer mine. I am much, much better than I used to be though and will happily answer questions, and while I still hate initiating conversations, I am quite happy to sustain a conversation with questions, at least for a while. My husband is really, really good at asking questions – he’s an extrovert, unsurprisingly. I have to actually talk him down sometimes and tell him not everyone likes answering question after question after question. He often doesn’t even register the body language and facial expressions you mentioned. He has no comprehension of ‘shy’. But people tend to understand he’s just being friendly.

    I still suck at the eye contact thing, although strangely enough I’m better at keeping eye contact with relative strangers for relatively shallow conversations, than I am with people I know better. Even my husband. I can’t think properly looking into someone’s eyes.

  • Heather Hemsley

    This was a great post! I have a question: What happens if the person whom you’re talking to looks uncomfortable and looks like they don’t want to talk anymore? I have had a couple people do that… 😐

  • This is SO true! Great post! I’ll be putting these tips into practice 🙂

  • Rachel M.

    This is so true!! My mom is an expert question-asker if you will and she has always shared these tips with me and my siblings. Thanks for an awesome post!

  • Gabrielle

    Excellent post!!


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