Until last Sunday, I had almost concluded that conversation is a lost art. My conclusions had come from observation and from my friend, Kathy, who had just returned from a visit with her parents.
Though I had long suspected social media has taken over in the lives of otherwise intelligent people, it was an experience in a local restaurant that cinched it for me. I was waiting for Kathy to join me for lunch when I noticed strange conduct at an adjacent table. Four middle-aged adults were seated with their heads down. At first, I thought they were having a long prayer before the meal. But when the waiter came to take their orders, they ordered with their heads down. There was no eye contact. "What is going on?" I wondered.
Then, it hit me -- this is technology at its worst. They were all texting or receiving text messages. They were totally not present to their friends around the table. Good grief, why had they even bothered to get together? At that point, Kathy joined me. She and her family had just returned from a spring-break trip that included a short visit with her parents. "How are your parents?" I asked. Her reply startled me -- "I've lost them." In total surprise, I asked what she meant.
After all, she had often told me that when she was growing up, her father had required each of the children, at dinner, to tell the most interesting thing that had happened to them that day. He concluded with a bit of national or international news. The kids didn't like it at the time but realized, in retrospect, how invaluable the experience was.
They had learned the art of conversation. They learned conversation is like a ball. When someone asked you a question, they were pitching the ball to you. You replied but didn't end with a period. Instead, you threw the ball to someone else with a question. Kathy had learned the lesson well. She is an engaging conversationalist. Now, she was telling me her parents were addicted to TV. They had become passive observers rather than active participants in life. I thought of a bit of verse by Lois Wyse in her poem, "Love Talk":
"The more we avoid talking,
the more passive our relationships become.
Television allows us to walk through life
with minor speaking parts.
And the more we fail to speak,
the more difficult understanding becomes."
Good conversational skills are based on biblical principles: genuine concern for others; not being self absorbed; and seeing a bigger picture than our own small worlds. Last Sunday, Ralph and Jackie Mohney invited our extended family to join them for Easter lunch. This year, two other families joined our group. It was a long table of talkers, and the conversation ball flew back and forth. I loved it! That interesting experience taught me a great deal about smooth interpersonal relationships through good communication and the Golden Rule.
Nell Mohney is a Christian author, motivational speaker and seminar leader. She may be reached at nell firstname.lastname@example.org.