The [Unofficial] Art of Conversation


“In my opinion…”

A statement that I have used waaaay too much in my life!

Having an opinion can be a blessing and a curse. I’ve heard many quotes about opinions, but the two that have stuck with me are:

Opinions are like buttholes, everyone’s got one and they stink.

And

Your opinions about leaders and situations don’t matter unless you are in the position to do something about them.

Living in the coffee shop world, I have learned the art of striking up a conversation with anyone. I would daily be pouring lattes for world travelers, surfers, stay-at-home moms, college students, doctors, judges, pastors, and deckhands on fishing boats (to name a few).

Every guest in my shop is as unique as the other; and we meet every race, religion, tribe, and tongue. Learning how to find common ground and the ability to talk about almost anything can be a challenge and requires a determination to always be learning. As I thought about the “Art of Conversation” here’s a few steps that I have put into practice in my own life.

First, you need a foundation of taking time daily to grow spiritually and hone your craft. These two elements will be the open door to connecting with people. Being full of the love of Christ and being led by the Holy Spirit is #1 above anything. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Then, whatever your job, skill, or occupation is, seek to become the best at what you do. This is an instant contact point and easy conversation starter. If you say you’re a barista but don’t really know much about coffee, then the conversation has the potential to quickly crash and burn. With the ability to articulately explain coffee from a well of knowledge and understanding, you will gain ground based on your position as an “authority” in a subject. You can apply the principle of this scenario and apply it to your profession.

Second, become one that listens. Don’t just hear sounds, but be someone that has “ears to hear”. Really listen to people! Be quick to listen and slow to speak! It’s said that when you are talking you are not learning. There is no way to even know how to connect with others unless you hear where they are coming from. Only once you listen can you find the entry point. [Tip: I listen first for differences in speech, like accents. “Where are you from?” is an awesome entry point.]

Then, third, develop the discipline to acquire information from everywhere. You can glean from news headlines, look up definitions to words, study maps, read books, watch sports video highlights, obtain differing view points on politics and social issues, etc. Information retention is not only good for the sharpness of your mind, but it’s the gasoline to the vehicle (conversation) that helps to connect. I’ve had some refer to me as a savant. I wouldn’t agree with this, though I get what they are saying. I think the more accurate word is a polymath (a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas). But really, I am just a lover of people; and because of that, I want to become interested in what others are interested in!

Lastly, when you ask someone a question, fight the urge to interject and cut off their answer with your own views. This is probably the most damaging to any future conversations! When others view you as the one who dominates every conversation, then they will cease to converse. Cutting off sentences and thoughts are no bueno! I view my calling in life to be one that builds bridges and connects people—both with each other and with Jesus. Nothing can burn bridges faster than your smelly butthole… oops, I mean opinion!

Ultimately, we must be careful about how generous we are with sharing our opinions. My mentor in business would always remind me, “Loose lips sink ships!” When we are quick to share our opinions and not listen to others, we often miss out on opportunities to connect with them. I’m a firm believer that nothing happens by chance. Every person you connect with happens for a reason. Let’s become more masterful with how we connect with those we encounter every day!

Disciplining our mouths to only share our opinions when others actually ask for them is a great habit! This will make room for more productive speech, like talking about the love of Christ, encouraging/building up others, bettering your craft, and speaking TRUTH.

But, what do I know… this is all just my opinion! 😉

What say you?

I’m listening…

Steve

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